Ailing offense dooms m. basketball at Holy Cross

It won’t be the end of the season’s road, but it will be a welcome end to the road trips — at least for one game.

Yale (1-4) on Wednesday dropped its fourth-consecutive match away from the friendly confines of the John J. Lee Amphitheater in a tough 39-60 contest against Holy Cross (6-0) in Worchester, Mass. After toppling opening-day opponent Sacred Heart (0-6), the Elis have failed to take a lead into halftime against opponents on both coasts.

Before Wednesday night, Yale had not scored under 40 points in a game since a 38-63 loss to Penn (2-5) in 2001. The Elis’ worst offensive night in six years allowed the Crusaders to extend their winning streak to six games.

Despite a surge of production from center Matt Kyle ’08 — the Nov. 21 Ivy League player of the week — consistent numbers from captain Eric Flato ’08 and steady support off the bench, the Bulldogs have faltered in recent matches because of inefficient shooting.

“UCLA is the best defensive team in the country, so we struggled against good athletes who work well on together on D,” forward Nick Holmes ’08 said of the team’s loss over Thanksgiving break. “Tonight, they played a matchup zone, and we just didn’t get any good looks for whatever reason.”

But the slew of high-class teams the Bulldogs have faced should prepare them for faceoffs against Ivy League opponents, including a potent Cornell (4-1) squad on Jan. 2, 2008.

In Worcester, the Elis fell behind early and were never able to recover. Big forward Tim Clifford put up a game-high 23 points and six blocks, which make him the school-record holder, with 154 stops. Colin Cunningham’s first career double-double, along with Clifford’s stellar performance, was enough to sink the Elis.

It was a poor night for Yale shooters, who managed an abysmal .267 field-goal percentage and lacked any double-digit performance. Despite matching Holy Cross’ 45 field-goal attempts, the Bulldogs sank just 12 of their shots, while the Crusaders made 21.

“Tonight we didn’t execute offensively at all,” guard Caleb Holmes ’08 said. “We’re better shooters than we showed. They played a zone matchup on defense, and we scored 40 points — that’s just awful.”

The contest began in the Elis’ favor. The visitors held a one-point lead for all of one minute before the Crusaders catapulted to a 10-1 lead six minutes in. The Bulldogs found the basket for 17 more points in the remaining 14 minutes of the half but trailed, 32-18, at the half.

But the 20 minutes after the break did not improve the Elis’ chances of winning. The squad’s offense scored 22 points in the second half, four better than in the first, but the Bulldogs allowed the Crusaders another 28 of their own and eventually lost, 60-39.

“Our offense has been in a little slump over the past two games, but that happens,” guard Alex Zampier ’09 said. “We didn’t have our starting center, Matt Kyle, so Tim Clifford had a big advantage over a smaller defender.”

The Elis have been outscored by a combined 55 points against Holy Cross and No. 2 UCLA (8-0) after just a 19-point combined deficit in their previous two losses, to Stanford (8-1) and Mass-Amherst (7-1).

After two disappointing defeats, the Elis look forward to returning home Saturday to take on Wagner (4-2).

“Playing at home is obviously an advantage for us, so it will be good to get back in our own gym,” Nick Holmes said.

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