The men’s basketball team’s inability to sustain its intensity has been a prevalent theme in nearly all its losses.
But a convergence of factors likely ensures that the Bulldogs will not fall flat in the next few days.
This weekend marks Yale’s final home games of the season, and for six seniors, their collegiate careers. The first of those games is tonight against archrival Harvard.
“There’s no reason not to be hyped,” guard Scott Gaffield ’04 said.
Harvard upended the Bulldogs, 78-71 Feb. 14 in Cambridge — a loss that dealt a lethal blow to Yale’s Ivy League title hopes.
“We certainly owe [Harvard] one,” Gaffield said. “In light of what happened last weekend, the Harvard game doesn’t mean as much. But it left a bitter taste in our mouths and getting a win this weekend would make us feel a lot better.”
Last weekend, Yale dropped a pair of road games to the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton.
Against Harvard, the Bulldogs were down by as many as 10 points in the second half, but climbed back to take a 62-58 advantage with 7:33 left. Kevin Rogus hit his sixth three-pointer of the night four minutes later to put the Cantabs up, 68-67, and give Harvard the lead for good.
Rogus, the team’s leading scorer (14.4 ppg), paced Harvard with 22 points. As a team, the Crimson shot 53.1 percent from the field and over 55 percent from long range.
“We have to stop penetration and stay in front of our men,” guard Edwin Draughan ’05 said. “That’s what killed us last time. They were able to drive and kick it out for threes.”
The Bulldogs conclude senior weekend Saturday against Dartmouth. Before the game, the seniors and their parents will be honored.
In their first meeting Feb. 13 in Hanover, Yale had little difficulty beating Harvard’s travel partner, trouncing the Big Green 78-40. The Elis held Dartmouth to 17-of-49 shooting and outrebounded it 42-21.
Defense will again be key for Yale this weekend.
“We just have to play defense. We’ve had a stretch of three games — Penn, Princeton and Dartmouth — where our defense was excellent. We have to continue that into this weekend,” head coach James Jones said.
This year’s senior class has special significance for the Eli head coach.
“They were the first group I was able to pull together,” said Jones, who took over the Yale men’s basketball program in April 1999. “They were my first recruits. They decided to play for a program that won four games the year before. They believed in me, our program and our university.”
Over the past four seasons, Yale has compiled a 54-55 record. That includes a 21-11 mark in the 2001-2002 campaign, in which the Bulldogs earned a share of the Ivy championship and won its first-ever postseason game, defeating Rutgers in the first round of the NIT.
Jones points to this year’s seniors as the reasons for the program’s turnaround.
“They didn’t let history dwell upon them,” Jones said. “They made their own history. What will their legacy be? We won’t see that fully for another 10 to 15 years. This is just the start.”