The Bulldogs wasted no time in blowing the Gators out of the water during both teams’ season opener.
The men’s basketball team won its first homestand in dominating fashion on Sunday, downing the Allegheny Gators, 98-55. The Bulldogs went on a 15-2 run early in the first half and never looked back as they led the Gators for the rest of the game. Allegheny was sorely outmatched and struggled to establish any sort of offensive or defensive identity.
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Although Allegheny generally relies on its perimeter shooting and outside play to carry its offense, the Gators were unable to overcome the Bulldogs’ man-to-man pressure defense. Allegheny shot a pitiful 19.2 percent from the field in the first half and were two for 13 from the three-point line. The Gators finished the game with a 27.8 percent field-goal percentage, a testament to the Elis’ strong defense.
Allegheny wasn’t much better on the defensive end. The Gators consistently gave up open looks to the Bulldogs and were unable to find a solution to head coach James Jones’s motion offense. The game would have gotten out of hand much sooner if the Bulldogs had been able to convert from beyond the arc — the Elis were only one for 12 from the three-point line in the first half. But the Elis shook off the rust and found their shooting touch, outscoring the Gators 66-37 during the second half.
The dichotomy between the first and second halves was symbolized by the performance of guard Travis Pinick ’09. Pinick ended the first half without a field goal and then turned up the heat in the second period, finishing the game with a career-high 14 points.
“I tried to come out with a lot more energy in the second half,” Pinick said.
The Elis were paced by forward Jason Abromaitis’ 12 points and 11 rebounds, both career-highs, and point guard Eric Flato ’08 led all scorers with 15 points.
Abromaitis’ performance was particularly surprising considering that the forward averaged one point per game in 24 appearances last season. The senior attributed his improvement to an offseason of hard work.
“I really worked hard physically this summer,” Abromaitis said. “I played with a lot of good players in my hometown, and I worked out with Celtics player Ryan Gomes. I added about 10 pounds.”
Despite the Bulldogs’ strong showing, Jones saw plenty of areas for improvement.
“What I tried to gauge from the game was to see what we need to improve upon — post defense, transition defense and rebounding,” Jones said.
The Elis’ struggles in defending the post were apparent during the second half as Allegheny freshman George Raftis exploited the Bulldogs in the paint for 14 points in only 18 minutes.
“With a 24-point lead, it’s commonplace to not work as hard,” Jones said. “Our low-post defense is certainly a concern.”
The Elis’ defense was missing three key components: forward Ross Morin ’09, point guard Chris Andrews ’09 and guard Casey Hughes ’07. Andrews is out for the season, but both Morin and Hughes should return in the next few weeks. Morin is recovering from an infection and is expected back for next week’s game against Ohio.
“Ross needs to gain back the five pounds that he lost, which he’ll probably do in the next meal,” Jones said. “The reason we’re going to Ohio is because of him — that’s where he’s from. He needs to get healthy.”
The blowout win was more than just a good way to start the season. The comfortable lead allowed Jones to give the new Bulldogs valuable playing time. Guard Alexander Zampier ’10 and center Paul Nelson ’10 both saw extended minutes in the season opener.
Zampier’s play will be particularly important for the Bulldogs this season due to the injury suffered by Andrews.
“He certainly opened up our eyes on the coaching staff,” Jones said. “I expect him to be part of our 10-man rotation.”
Nelson is also making a strong case for filling the shoes of departed all-Ivy center Dominick Martin ’06.
“Nelson didn’t really play a lot in high school,” Jones said. “He’s still learning, he’s a sponge. He’s really strong and really athletic for a freshman. He will play an important role for us in the future.”
Nelson threw down a monstrous dunk in the final seconds of the game, bringing the crowd and the Bulldog bench to its feet and providing an exclamation point for the Elis’ dominating performance.
With a tough upcoming schedule that includes games against Ohio, Dayton and Bucknell, the Bulldogs needed this win.
“It was good to get a game on our belts,” Jones said.