HANOVER, N.H. — The men’s basketball team knows how difficult it is to win two consecutive nights on the road. But the Elis also know they let a weekend sweep slip by.
After routing archrival Harvard (10-10, 2-4 Ivy), 87-66, in Cambridge, Mass., on Friday night, the Bulldogs (8-12, 3-3) traveled here on Saturday and suffered a frustrating 57-54 loss against Dartmouth (6-14, 4-2) to split the weekend.
Coming off arguably the team’s worst two conference performances of the season, losses to Columbia (8-12, 3-3) and Cornell (15-7, 5-1), the Bulldogs came out firing on all cylinders versus the Crimson. After falling behind early, Yale asserted itself offensively and put together its best scoring effort of the season.
The Elis took a 45-40 lead into intermission — those 45 points were more than the team scored in either one of its games the previous weekend — and pulled away in the second half.
Behind a balanced attack with four players in double figures — captain and forward Ross Morin ’09 and forward Travis Pinick ’09 led with 15 points each — the Bulldogs went on to score 42 points in the second half and the Crimson were not able to keep up.
Jeremy Lin, the Ivy League’s third leading scorer, finished the contest with 23 points — 14 in the first half — but didn’t get much help from his teammates. Captain Andrew Pewsar chipped in with 11, but no other Cantab scored in double digits.
A week after committing 20 turnovers against Columbia, the Elis committed just 10 in the contest due in large part to strong point guard play. Starting point guard Chris Andrews ’09 and backup Porter Braswell ’11 were efficient in the half-court but were especially adroit in transition. Braswell, in particular, used his quickness to race down the court on fast breaks to set up teammates and attack the basket. The Scotch Plains, N.J., native scored 13 points on the night and guard Alex Zampier ’10 dropped in a dozen.
“I thought transition was key for us tonight,” head coach James Jones said after the win. “We got a lot out of pushing the basketball. Porter did a great job at doing it and every time he did it seemed like we got an opportunity at the basket.”
The 87 points the Elis scored Friday night were more than the combined 78 points the team scored the entire previous weekend.
“This week [in practice] we really focused on our offensive execution,” Morin said.
The win was Yale’s fourth consecutive triumph at Lavietes Pavilion in Cambridge and improved Jones’ record to 16-3 against his team’s top rival.
Twenty-four hours later, it was a very different story for the Bulldogs. In the usually tough second night of a road trip, Yale didn’t come out with the same fire it had brought against the Crimson. But although they shot just 50 percent from the charity stripe and were out-rebounded substantially in the first half, the Elis were down just one point, 33-32, at the break.
The second half turned out to be a tight one with each team unable to take a lead larger than five, due in large part to each team’s inability to score during a stretch of time and take advantage of the other team’s inability to score. A jumper by Morin with 6:09 remaining cut the Big Green lead to three and neither team scored a field goal until the 1:29 mark when Morin, who hit two free throws during the stretch, hit another jumper to give the Bulldogs a 55-54 lead.
But from there Yale didn’t score another point. A Marlon Sanders layup with 1:01 remaining gave the Big Green a 55-54 lead; after Andrews stepped out of bounds with 53 seconds remaining, Dartmouth’s Alex Barnett milked the clock down and hit a difficult floater over Pinick to put the hosts up by three, 57-54, with 26 seconds remaining.
Dartmouth then quickly fouled Pinick with 12 seconds on the clock, not allowing the Bulldogs to get off a three-pointer to tie the game. Pinick missed the free throw and Yale began fouling in desperation to send the Big Green to the line. With only three fouls to their credit, the Bulldogs committed four fouls in four seconds to finally get Darmouth to the charity stripe.
Dan Biber missed the front end of the one-and-one and without any timeouts, Braswell raced down the court looking to tie the game. The point guard dribbled down the right side, pump faked in hopes of getting the defender off the floor (the defender didn’t bite) and launched an off-balanced three in front of the Yale bench as time expired. The shot missed just long.
“I thought it was going in, and it just rimmed out,” Braswell said.
Despite shooting just 55.6 percent (10-for-18) from the free-throw line, committing 15 turnovers and grabbing nine fewer rebounds than Dartmouth, the Bulldogs still had a great chance of pulling out their second conference road win in as many nights. But down the stretch, Yale squandered opportunities and Dartmouth took advantage.
On the night, Barnett, who came off a 28-point effort in Dartmouth’s Friday night overtime victory over Brown and is the Ancient Eight’s leading scorer, was held in check by the Yale defense. Predominately defended by Pinick, Barnett, whom Jones called the best offensive player in the Ivy League, shot just 5 of 18 from the field and finished with 13 points.
“It sure is frustrating,” a dejected Pinick said. “I thought we as a team did a good job on him all game. We just didn’t get stops down the stretch.”
It was Barnett’s teammates who stepped up unexpectedly for the Big Green. Freshman Alex Rufful scored a career-high 14 points and co-captain Robbie Pride added 11 off the bench (on the season, only Barnett averages double figures in points for Dartmouth).
Morin led all scorers with 17 points on 7 of 9 shooting and both Zampier and Michael Sands chipped in with eight.
After the game Jones pointed out that his players made it difficult on themselves by being out-rebounded, not shooting well from the free-throw line and committing turnovers.
“If you do one of those three things well, then you win the basketball game,” Jones emphasized.
Knowing that they could have came out with a crucial weekend sweep on the road is especially difficult for the Elis.
“It’s real tough because we didn’t finish off the weekend,” Pinick said. “We got to let this sit with us for a whole week but fortunately we’re coming back home with a chance to shake things up against Princeton, but this one’s going to sting for a little bit.”
The Bulldogs now look to prepare for next weekend’s pair of contests back in New Haven against first-place Princeton (9-8, 4-0) and Penn (5-13, 1-3). Playing at home has been a rarity for the Elis: Of the team’s 20 games thus far this season, only five have been at the John J. Lee Amphitheater.
The loss against Dartmouth stings all the more because it was the team’s third of the season in conference play, and historically, three losses seems to be maximum for a chance at the Ivy League championship and the coveted automatic NCAA bid that comes with it. (The 1986-’87 season was the last in which a team with four league losses won the Ancient Eight title; that season Penn finished 10-4. The 2001-02 season saw three teams — Penn, Yale, and Princeton — finish 11-3 in the conference, and in a playoff, Penn ultimately earned the bid to the Big Dance.)
The Bulldogs look to bounce back on Friday night when they host the Tigers. The contest is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be televised on the YES Network.