Despite a tough loss to Cornell Saturday night, things are finally looking up for the men’s basketball team.
Between a 77-67 win at Columbia on Friday and a 87-82 double overtime loss at Cornell on Saturday, Edwin Draughan ’05 played to his potential, exploding with 45 points. As impressive was Caleb Holmes ’08 and Eric Flato ’08, who together accounted for almost a third of the Bulldogs’ scoring on the weekend.
“I was very impressed with the freshmen,” Casey Hughes ’07 said. “Flato’s been playing consistently well all year, but Caleb Holmes plays that well in practice every day, it was just a matter of time before it finally came onto the court.”
On Friday night, the Elis prevailed in scenarios where they previously floundered. Like last weekend against Penn, Dominick Martin ’06 was limited to minimal minutes and six shots total, but against the Lions, Flato and Holmes filled the blanks, stepping up with 11 and 15 points, respectively, contributing like veteran players.
“I think we’re more experienced now and you get better when you’ve seen more situations,” Hughes said.
Another moment of deja vu came when Columbia’s Jeremiah Boswell banked a short jumper with 9:29 remaining, cutting the Bulldogs’ lead to 52-48. But a lay-up from Flato put to an end to the second-half curse of fouls, turnovers and missed shots that spelled disaster for the Elis last weekend.
With 5:05 remaining in the game, Flato knocked down a jump-shot to cap a 10-0 Bulldog run, wrenching the game’s momentum from the Lions’ grasp. More important than the offense clicking into place was the Bulldogs’ commitment to defense, Flato said.
“[Head coach James Jones] told us we were going to have to win with our defense,” Flato said. “We got back down the floor, we got a stop, we came down and we scored. We decided to step up our defense because we were up and kind of relaxed a little bit.”
While the offensive efforts were matched on the defensive end on Friday night, the Elis were not so consistent on Saturday. Despite shooting almost 10 percent better than usual, a stunning 51 percent from the floor, the Bulldogs’ effort on the defensive end was spotty, at best.
“We just had to stop them from shooting the three,” Hughes said. “That should have been our game. On our defensive end, we weren’t disciplined enough to get a stop.”
The Big Red’s three-point arsenal of Lenny Collins and Cody Toppert went a combined 8-for-12 from beyond the arch, with Collins hitting a huge three to send the game into the second overtime.
The only answer for Collins and the rest of the Red was Draughan, who brought his ‘A’ game, scoring a career-high 25 points against Cornell after a 20-point performance at Columbia. Draughan, who went 17-for-31 on the weekend from the field, was deadly from midrange, exploiting any misstep by his defender.
“[Draughan] was really the catalyst [against Cornell],” Flato said. “Every time he touched the ball, they were worried about him. He’d drive, draw a defender and kick it or create a shot for himself.”
Currently ranked top-10 in the league in five different statistical categories, Draughan is a threat against any team in the league, but the 6-foot-7 guard, who can comfortably play the point or either wing, was too much for the Big Red defense throughout the game.
“[In Cornell’s] man-to-man, they couldn’t match up with him,” Nick Holmes ’08 said. “He beat his man one-on-one created for everyone else. He was too quick for Cornell.”