The last time the men’s basketball team went on the road, it faced the challenge of overcoming the top two teams in the Ivy League. This time around, the issue won’t be taking down opponents so much as kicking them after they’ve already fallen.
This weekend, the Elis (13-10, 5-3 Ivy) travel to Dartmouth (3-18, 1-7) and Harvard (12-9, 4-4) in search of their first league road wins this season. Their last road trip, which took them to Penn (15-6, 7-0) and Princeton (7-13, 5-2), cost the Bulldogs two losses. But Yale has already defeated both the Big Green and the Crimson, and the outlook is hopeful for a weekend sweep.
“It’s time for us to get a couple wins on the road,” captain Josh Greenberg ’06 said. “We have a pretty good idea of what both teams do. I don’t think much has changed from the last time we played them in terms of what we’re trying to do.”
Though Penn and Princeton crushed the Elis two weekends ago, the two teams may actually have improved Yale’s prospects for this coming weekend. Last week, both the Quakers and the Tigers swept Dartmouth and Harvard in away games last weekend, handing the Big Green and the Crimson two additional losses and dropping them into the bottom half of the conference standings. The Elis may find somewhat demoralized opponents when they arrive in Hanover on Friday night and in Cambridge on Saturday.
“We have a good schedule for this weekend,” point guard Eric Flato ’08 said. “We get to play Dartmouth first, and on paper they’re struggling a little more than Harvard is. Hopefully, we can get our act together and get a win going into the Harvard game.”
Yale’s first challenge will be to get past the Big Green. At home on Jan. 28, the Bulldogs destroyed Dartmouth, 72-55. The Elis are 11-2 against the Big Green since Yale head coach James Jones took the helm in 1999. But no Ivy League road game is an easy win, as evidenced by Dartmouth’s surprise 53-52 win over the Elis in Hanover last season.
This year, Dartmouth’s primary threat is its strong perimeter shooting. Guards Mike Lang and Leon Pattman lead the Big Green with 10.6 and 10.1 points per game, respectively. Pattman has made less of an impact recently, having been sidelined for a weekend with a sprained ankle and then scoring just four points last weekend against Penn and Princeton. If Pattman is not up to par this weekend, then Dartmouth may have a substantially weaker offense.
Even without Pattman, the Elis will still have to focus on defending the perimeter.
“Dartmouth played well against Princeton’s matchup zone last weekend,” Jones said. “We’ll have to watch out for the three-point shot and have to make them shoot contested shots.”
When Dartmouth was in New Haven, the Bulldogs made a killing off the post, where the Big Green suffered from a size and talent disadvantage. Center Dominick Martin ’06 had 15 points, forward Sam Kaplan ’07 added 13 and reserve forward Ross Morin ’09 tallied seven points and three assists. In comparison, the Big Green’s three starting post players combined for just 13 points the entire game.
From Hanover, the Bulldogs will travel to Cambridge to face Harvard Saturday night. The Elis played one of their best games when the Cantabs were in New Haven, squashing the Crimson, 82-74, after leading by as many as 15 points during the second half.
Unlike the Big Green, Harvard thrives on its post presence. Though guard Jim Goffredo (15.4 ppg) powers the Cantabs’ backcourt, forward Matt Stehle and center Brian Cusworth are some of the toughest matchups Martin and Kaplan have seen this year. All-Ivy forward Stehle leads the Crimson with 15.7 ppg, 9.4 rebounds per game and 2.1 steals per game. He is in the top two in the conference in all three statistical categories.
Harvard’s talented big men earn them plenty of second chances on the offensive end, and the Crimson lead the Ivy League with 13.52 offensive boards per game.
“We have to make sure we rebound the ball against Harvard, especially better than we did in our own gym,” Jones said. “We have to take away some of their opportunities.”
Kaplan has missed the Bulldogs’ last four games with a wrist injury, and it is still uncertain whether he will be able to compete this weekend. Jones said Kaplan will likely see some playing time this weekend, though he may only be able to play a limited role. Even if Kaplan is not cleared for play, the Elis should not be too worried. Morin has stepped up in Kaplan’s stead, and had a career-high 15 points last weekend against Cornell.