For the first time since hosting Stanford on Nov. 14 in the Bulldogs’ season opener, the men’s basketball team took the floor at the John J. Lee Amphitheater and took advantage of the cozy confines.
Holy Cross (2-6) put the first points on the board to take a 2-0 lead, but it was all Yale from there. The Bulldogs (2-4, 0-0 Ivy) then went on a 12-0 run behind two three-pointers from both captain Ross Morin ’09 and point guard Porter Braswell ’11. The Elis never looked back on the way to a physical 76-66 victory.
Morin and Braswell got it going for the Elis, but it was the Alex Zampier ’10 show from there on out. The guard scored a career-high 28 points, including spurts of seven consecutive points in each half. He shot 10 of 16 from the floor, including three 0f nine from behind the arc.
And with Morin in foul trouble for much of the contest, Zampier’s performance was needed.
“I haven’t been shooting that great, so I just let the game come to me,” Zampier said. “With Ross out, someone’s got to pick up the scoring a little bit.”
Braswell tied his own career-high of 13 points, and center Garrett Fiddler ’11 tallied 10 points. Travis Pinick ’09 led the Bulldogs with 11 rebounds along with his seven points.
Guard Andrew Beinert led the Crusaders with 15 points, all from the three-point line.
Although they were outrebounded 40-34, the Elis shot a season-high 44.9 percent from the field, including a surprising 46.7 percent clip (seven of 15) from the arc. In the Bulldogs’ 60-39 loss against Holy Cross last season, Yale shot just 26.7 percent from the field.
Defensively, the Bulldogs mixed it up between a 2-3 zone and their traditional man-to-man defense, and were successful with both sets. Although the Crusaders’ leading scorer R. J. Evans surpassed his 9.6 points per game average with 12 points last night, nothing came easy for the freshman. Evans was held to just three of 12 shooting, while senior forward Colin Cunningham missed seven of his ten shots to finish with just eight points.
As a team, the Crusaders shot just 37.7 percent from the field.
The Bulldogs enjoyed a lead as large as 18 points in the beginning of the second half, but the Crusaders would not go away. Holy Cross cut the lead to seven on three occasions and with 2:57 remaining on the clock, it was just a 64-57 lead for the Bulldogs after one of Beinart’s five three-pointers. But the visitors couldn’t get any closer.
On Yale’s next possession, forward Jordan Gibson ’10 hit two free throws, and the Bulldogs finished the game off on the line, converting 12 consecutive free throws down the stretch.
Head coach James Jones thought playing at home certainly helped his squad, which had nine players on the floor for double-digit minutes.
“I think it’s just a comfort level guys have being in their own gym, a place where they practice all the time,” the coach explained. “It’s just a comfort level that all players have, especially kids who come off the bench. In most times bench players don’t play as well on the road as they do at home.”
The depth — especially on the frontline with Fiddler, Paul Nelson ’10, Greg Mangano ’12 and Mike Sands ’11 — is something the team knows can only help when the conference schedule commences in January.
“[The depth] is great — it’s really important especially when the Ivy League comes around and we’re playing two games back-to-back days,” Morin said. “We’re going to need big bodies in there.”
The contest wasn’t without a little extra physicality. The teams were whistled for a combined 50 team fouls, and both Mangano and Holy Cross’ Eric Meister had to briefly leave the game to bandage cuts around their eyes. In several instances, some pushing and shoving after the whistle sparked some tension between the New England rivals.
“They play real hard, we play hard, and when two teams play hard like that, it’s gonna get a little chippy,” Zampier said.
The Elis will now see another extensive stretch of time away from home — the team will not take the floor in New Haven until Jan. 3 against MIT. The stretch of five road contests begins on Tuesday when the Bulldogs travel to take on Boston University (4-2).