So far this season, the road has been nothing but trouble for the men’s basketball team. Fortunately for the Elis, their home court has consistently brought them wins, and this weekend was no different.
The Bulldogs (13-10, 5-3 Ivy) picked up two victories against Columbia (8-13, 1-7) and Cornell (10-12, 5-3) this weekend. The Elis took down the Lions, 74-67, on Friday night with 54 percent shooting and carried their success over into Saturday night when they defeated Cornell, 74-65. The weekend boosts Yale to third place in the Ivy League, tied with the Big Red behind Penn and Princeton.
The Bulldogs dominated the Lions early on, jumping out to an 18-point lead halfway through the first stanza. But a five minute stretch during which the Lions scored 17 points and the Elis committed five turnovers cut the Bulldogs’ lead to three. Yale had just an eight-point advantage heading into the break.
Still, despite huge efforts from Columbia center Ben Nwachukwu (18 points) and forward John Baumann (17 points), the Lions could not recover from the halftime deficit. Though Columbia got as close as four points with 1:49 left on the clock, the Elis hit six free throws in the last minute and a half to keep the Lions at bay.
“We’re a good team,” Columbia head coach Joe Jones said. “We regrouped, but we weren’t able to make plays and the ball didn’t bounce our way. It’s hard to win when you’re down by so many and on someone else’s court.”
While the Bulldogs are used to the sibling pairings on their team — Caleb and Nick Holmes ’08 are twins, and captain Josh Greenberg’s ’06 brother Ari Greenberg ’09 joined the team this year — the Elis had the chance to see a little family rivalry Friday night. Columbia’s Joe Jones is Yale head coach James Jones’ younger brother. Friday marked the fifth meeting between the brothers as opposing coaches, and Yale’s Jones has emerged with the 4-1 series advantage. The younger Jones will get his opportunity for revenge when the Bulldogs visit Columbia Feb. 25.
Saturday night, Cornell and Yale traded the lead six times in the first half, with the Big Red leading by as many as eight just before halftime. Guard Eric Flato ’08 hit the first of his three three-point shots to bring the Bulldogs within five points, 36-31, at the break. Big Red reserve Jason Hartford came off the bench to score a game-high 21 points for Cornell, including 12 in the first half.
The second stanza saw the Elis steadily chip away at the Big Red’s lead. The Bulldogs, forced to play a smaller lineup with the absence of starting forward Sam Kaplan ’07 and backup center Matt Kyle ’08, took advantage of their overabundance of guards and attacked the Big Red’s zone with four perimeter players, generating open outside shots and inside touches for center Dominick Martin ’06. The Bulldogs earned the advantage for good with just 3:44 left on the clock when Flato sank another three to put the Elis ahead, 66-61. The Elis added eight foul shots while keeping the Big Red scoreless from the field for the remainder of the game.
“Once we spread the court a bit more, it opened up the inside,” Flato said. “That opened up [Martin] and led to open threes and we knocked some of them down.”
Kaplan was sidelined for the weekend with torn ligaments in his wrist, forcing the Bulldogs to play without their second-highest scorer and one of their biggest post presences. Martin was the primary player to step up in Kaplan’s absence. He recorded his first double-double of the season against Columbia, collecting 17 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. And as if one wasn’t enough, Martin earned another double-double against Cornell, adding 14 points and 11 rebounds to the Elis’ efforts.
Forward Ross Morin ’09 was thrown into the starting lineup in Kaplan’s stead. Although it took the freshman reserve a while to warm up, Morin was unstoppable once he did. Unimpressive on Friday night, with no points and just three rebounds, Morin came out firing against Cornell and shot 6-of-7 from the floor and 3-of-4 from the free throw line for a career-high 15 points.
“Without Sam, Ross just did a very good job for us,” Jones said. “He had 15 points and played great defense.”
Kaplan is having an MRI Monday, and may return to the starting lineup for the upcoming weekend’s games at Dartmouth and Harvard.