LOS ANGELES — Members of the men’s basketball team got all the experience they wanted in the Golden State over Thanksgiving break, but they got it at a cost.
After being handed losses by Stanford and No. 2 UCLA in a Thanksgiving trip to the West Coast, Yale dropped its overall record to 1-3 before it prepares to meet its last ranked opponent, No. 4 Kansas, in a month.
The Elis took a beating at UCLA’s legendary Pauley Pavilion, losing by almost 40 points in Los Angeles last Friday. The Bruins topped the Bulldogs, 81-47, and dominated for about 30 minutes of the uneven match.
“That’s the best team in the country,” guard Alex Zampier ’09 said of UCLA. “We were hanging tough, and then we gave up some transition passes and they got the momentum.”
The Elis held their own against the powerhouse until the home team gained a six-point lead about eight minutes in. UCLA then found its stride and began tossing easy high passes in to its post players for almost guaranteed points.
The Bulldogs’ shots just did not fall in, and Yale achieved only a 35.1 field-goal percentage despite making just nine fewer field goals. UCLA notched 15 points off free throws and sank eight long balls, which proved the difference in the game.
“Our shots weren’t falling and they were getting layups,” center Matt Kyle ’08 said. “When we played zone defense, they passed to the high posts. They know what they’re doing.”
Going into halftime, the Bulldogs were a respectable 15 points behind. But Bruins Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love put on a clinic for the final 20 minutes, as they each amassed 15 points.
On a basket that put UCLA ahead 58-31, Love forced an errant ball back onto the court to Josh Shipp, who raced the ball upcourt for an easy two points. The Bulldogs stood little chance against the Bruins’ forceful offense and first-class defending.
“In the second half, things kind of got out of hand,” Yale head coach James Jones said. “We didn’t have as many good shots.”
The Elis fell behind by as many as 39 points and finished the match at a 34-point deficit. The margin of defeat was a far cry from the 11-point difference in Palo Alto, Calif. on Tuesday.
Stanford defeated the Bulldogs in the Elis’ first match of the week, 72-61. Twenty-two points from captain and guard Eric Flato ’08 were not enough against a double-double and career game from seven-foot Cardinal Robin Lopez and a 25-point effort by forward Lawrence Hill, . The Elis never saw a lead, but they stayed close, with nine shots from beyond the arc and 21 points off turnovers.
“We just hit our shots,” guard Nick Holmes ’08 said. “We played better and defended too. We played tough competition to learn how to play together.”
The trip to the left coast left the Bulldogs with a pair of losses to high-caliber teams, but the experience gained should serve the Elis well when they take on more tough teams in the coming weeks.
“Our players thought this was a great experience,” Jones said. “Playing where John Wooden coached is going to be something these kids will remember for the rest of their lives. They won’t remember the score, but they will remember this experience.”