Yeoman’s work: hoops growing

For a team with a 2-6 record on the road, notching that second win just days before winter break ended may provide some momentum for the men’s basketball team heading into the spring semester.

After another tough loss to a top-ten team — No. 3 Kansas (18-0) — to begin the winter break stretch on Dec. 29, Yale (6-8) rebounded to win three of their next four games during the remainder of the break. Victories last week over Longwood (4-15) on the road and Div. III Oberlin (3-10) at home saw the Elis play better than they have all year.

The contest in Lawrence, Kan was one of the most anticipated games of the season, along with matches against No. 5 UCLA (18-1) and No. 23 Stanford (14-2).

But the Elis fell to the Jayhawks, 86-53, in front of the biggest crowd the Bulldogs have seen — 16,300 — during a homecoming for the Olathe, Kan.-born Holmes brothers.

“We know that we have to take care of the ball better and get into our offense better,” guard Caleb Holmes ’08 said. “We need to work on those things before Ivy League play gets started.

Since the loss in Kansas, the Bulldogs have found their way around the court again and have won three matches, most recently on Jan. 12 in New Haven.

At the John J. Lee Amphitheater on Saturday, the Bulldogs topped the Oberlin Yeomen, 92-41. The 51-point win was the Elis’ largest of the season. The match saw double-digit point totals from five Bulldogs, including three starters: Center Matt Kyle ’08 (14), forward Travis Pinick ’09 (12), guard Alex Zampier ’10 (13), forward Jordan Gibson ’10 (14) and guard Ari Greenberg ’09 (10) all notched at least 10 points.

“A lot of players got quality minutes, and I saw some good things,” Yale head coach James Jones said. “We had 32 baskets and 24 assists. It wasn’t me; it was we. Everybody feels a part of it, and that’s a good thing.”

That home win came on the heels of a 78-73 victory against Longwood in Farmville, Va., just four days earlier.

The Bulldogs’ first road win in over a month was an even match that came down to the final two minutes, when Yale’s Pinick tied the score for the tenth time in the contest with a three-pointer followed by a layup to put the Elis in line for the victory.

“This was a big win for us,” forward Ross Morin ’09 said. “We’ve lost a couple of close games, so hopefully this will help us get some momentum heading into Ivy play.”

The Ancient Eight schedule is set to begin at home on Saturday, Jan. 19 against Brown. A string of four road games during February could determine the team’s Ivy fate.

The Bulldogs’ game against Longwood proved the team is capable of winning on the road, but Jones said the team still has to learn what it takes to get road wins against conference opponents. The road victory marks a positive end to a tough winter schedule, but the Elis went 1-2 in three games against Kansas, Portland (7-11) and Hartford (8-9).

Against Hartford, the Bulldogs faltered by just three points, dropping the game to the Hawks, 73-70.

The visitors had trouble breaking down the Hawk defense and took a season-high 28 three-pointers. One of the 11 that the Elis sunk came off the hands of guard Caleb Holmes ’08 with two seconds remaining on the clock, bringing the squad within one. But a pair of Hawk free throws gave the home team a definitive three-point lead and handed the Bulldogs their second winter loss away from New Haven.

“We know we have talented big guys, so we want our offense to rely on balance,” Pinick said of the 28 shots taken from beyond the arc.

Three days earlier, on Jan. 2, captain and guard Eric Flato ’08 rang in the New Year not with confetti and streamers but with the 1,000th point of his career in the 88-70 victory over Portland.

Flato’s 12 points, coupled with 15 and 14 from Caleb and Nick Holmes, respectively, contributed to the squad’s 88-70 win over the Pilots.

“It was a good feeling,” Flato said of his career accomplishment. “I’ve been wondering when it was going to happen, but it was nice to do it at home.”

The recent home success of the Elis will boost confidence as the team opens the Ancient Eight season.

“I like when the Ivy League season starts,” Kyle said. “We have to bear down on defense to win. If we don’t, it’s going to be tough. I feel like we have a great all-around team. We just have to make sure we are doing the right things.”

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