Despite suffering yet another hard-fought, late-game loss this week against Holy Cross, the Yale men’s basketball team remains decidedly optimistic entering this Saturday’s contest against Wagner on Staten Island.
Though the Elis (1-4) have dropped four consecutive games after their initial trouncing of Allegheny, their effort and enthusiasm has not wavered during this trying stretch, and team members said they have reason to expect success in the near future.
“We are still positive,” head coach James Jones said. “We played a very tough four games, and we know we had a chance to win them all. We just need to clear up the little things, and we’ll be alright.”
“Nobody likes losing,” forward Ross Morin ’09 added. “It’s very frustrating, especially when you put a lot of effort into what you do without seeing results, but we’ve all learned a lot from the first the first five games. Hopefully we’ll be able to use what we’ve learned to get back on the right track.”
If the Bulldogs want to put an end to their recent losing streak, this weekend’s game against struggling Wagner (1-5) appears to be a golden opportunity. The Seahawks come into the game with a three-game losing streak of their own, including Tuesday’s 66-61 defeat at the hands of Brown. The Staten Islanders enter Saturday’s competition with a relatively young team, boasting only one senior and two juniors on their 13-man roster.
Despite the team’s slow start, Wagner remains a dangerous adversary and will more than likely prove to be a significant challenge. The Seahawks jumped out to an NEC best 7-2 record last season and have graduated only one member of the 2005-’06 squad. Lacking even one player over six feet seven inches tall, the team relies on outside shooting to generate a majority of its offense.
The guard-dominated Wagner club boasts several effective and talented players, who the Elis will have to focus on if they hope to be successful. Multifaceted junior point guard Mike Porter, who was named to the NEC’s All-Rookie and All-Tournament team in 2005, averaged almost 12 points, four rebounds and 3.3 assists per game in his sophomore campaign last year.
Sharpshooter Joey Mundweiler will certainly keep the Yale defense honest, as he has the potential to cause to some real damage from the outside. Last season, Mundweiler ranked 11th in the NEC in three-point percentage, shooting over 38 percent from behind the arc, while leading the Seahawks with 41 treys.
“They really have some quickness and outside shooting,” Jones said. “We need to focus on clamping down and limiting their three-point shooting.”
Yale will have to work hard to avoid last year’s outcome and a trend that has become all too familiar this season: playing opponents evenly through the opening quarters, only to be unable to follow through down the stretch.
Despite an outstanding 22-point effort by swingman Casey Hughes ’07 last year against Wagner, the Bulldogs found themselves on the wrong side of a 73-69 heartbreaker that saw Mundweiler catch fire late in the game and run off eight points in less than two minutes to down the Elis.
Yale ought to be careful not to enter a shootout with the Seahawks, but rather capitalize on its considerable size advantage and pound the ball inside. Yale has a number of options under the basket that may result in the paint being a lucrative area for the Bulldogs.
Team players said they feel prepared and are eager to get back on the right track this weekend.
“Everyone has been behind each other 100 percent, and we’re beginning to build a trust,” guard Caleb Holmes ’08 said. “We’ve bounced back from tough games and had some solid practices. We’re excited to keep playing hard.”