On Saturday, the men’s basketball team finally uncovered a small diamond in its coal-filled holiday stocking. That gift came in the form of a victory over Div. III SUNY-Old Westbury (6-4).
Yale (5-8) ended its six-game losing streak Saturday night with an 89-59 trouncing of the Panthers at the John J. Lee Amphitheater. Guard Edwin Draughan ’05 paced the Elis with 17 points, while guard Alex Gamboa ’05 handed out eight assists against no turnovers. Forward Paul Vitelli ’04 grabbed eight rebounds and continued his hot three-point shooting with a two-of-four performance from beyond the arc.
The Bulldogs showed the depth of their bench –14 Elis tallied points. Guards Josh Greenberg ’06 and Basil Williams ’04 handled the point in the late minutes of the game. Greenberg went two-for-two from the line and Williams scored six. Forwards Jason Abromaitis ’07, Dexter Upshaw ’06 and Juan Wheat ’06 also contributed to the scoring effort.
“It feels good to get a win,” Yale head coach James Jones said.
Draughan expressed similar emotions.
“It was good for us to work on a couple of things,” he said. “[It was good to] get a lot of people a lot of time, and get some life into the team.”
Prior to the SUNY-Old Westbury game, the Eli squad had seemed lifeless, Draughan said. Yale started the winter vacation off with a 79-62 home loss to Niagara University Dec. 20. Though the Bulldogs cut the lead to three with just under 17 minutes remaining, Niagara controlled the game behind Juan Mendez’s 25 points and never trailed in the second half.
Yale then lost three straight on the road, starting with a hard fought 59-48 defeat at the hands of the University of South Carolina Dec. 30. Gamboa led Yale with 15 points and captain Matt Minoff ’04 added 11.
“We played hard, and we played well,” Jones said. “I’m proud of my guys. We competed hard.”
Gamboa had another strong game at American University four nights later, scoring 14 points on four-of-eight shooting from behind the three-point arc, but the Bulldogs still fell 84-73. Vitelli also added 14 and grabbed a game-high seven rebounds. Center Dominick Martin ’05 led all scorers with 18 points on seven-of-eight shooting.
On Jan. 7, the University of Rhode Island topped Yale 73-59 behind Dawan Robinson and Brian Woodward’s combined 41 points. Vitelli led the Elis with 14 points, followed by Justin Simon ’04 and Gamboa at 12 a piece. But URI dominated, not trailing in the entire second half.
One common thread throughout many of the Yale losses was a propensity to turn the ball over, particularly under full-court pressure.
“I really don’t know the main reason we are struggling against a press so much,” Gamboa said. “We are just being sloppy with the ball and making poor decisions. Most Ivy schools aren’t known for their presses, but after seeing the way we have struggled against them in the pre-Ivy season I will expect to encounter them.”
Jones said that though Yale still needs to do a better job of taking care of the basketball, they have improved their rebounding, which he said he thought was a problem area earlier in the season. Jones said he thought the team was ready for Ivy League play, and Draughan agreed.
“Of course we’re ready,” Draughan said. “We’re far beyond ready.”
Ivy pundits might not see Yale’s prospects in quite as positive a light, but Gamboa summed up the feelings of the Eli squad.
“No, this is not what this team was expecting heading into the Ivy League,” he said. “We have had a very challenging schedule but we have not played to our potential. However, we haven’t lost a league game so when we open up against Brown, the slate is wiped clean.”