Different weekend, same results.
A week after a frustrating split on the road, the Bulldogs (9-13, 4-4 Ivy) dominated from the tip against then-first place Princeton (9-10, 4-2) on Friday night but could not continue the momentum Saturday night against a struggling Penn team (7-13, 3-3), posting their second split in as many weekends.
Heading into the weekend, the Elis knew one more loss the rest of the season essentially erases any chance at an Ivy League championship. Now with a 4-4 conference record, the Bulldogs have all but erased any chance of representing the Ivy League in the NCAA tournament next month.
“Our backs are up against the wall and we thought this week was a good opportunity to come out and jumpstart us and hopefully get us back in the league race,” Travis Pinick ’09 said.
YALE 60, PRINCETON 48
Friday night’s victory over the Tigers was as convincing as they come and the story was rebounding. The Elis controlled the boards throughout the contest, out-rebounding the smaller Princeton team, 43-23. The Bulldogs scored 21 points on second chance opportunities to Princeton’s five.
Captain Ross Morin ’09 led all players with 10 rebounds and Pinick grabbed eight boards. Both players also tossed in 10 points (Alex Zampier ’09 led the Bulldogs with 13 points).
Princeton compounded its struggles with a poor shooting night against a stingy Yale defense. The Tigers dug themselves a hole by shooting less than 32 percent from the field in the first half and scoring only 20 points in the first 20 minutes. They found more success after intermission, shooting 39 percent, but the Elis were too much to handle.
Beginning at the 14:53 mark in the second half, the Bulldogs went on a 16-5 run over the next 8:22 to take their biggest lead of the night, 57-33, with 6:31 remaining. The Bulldogs were in control of the game throughout: A Michael Sands ’11 layup just under eight minutes into the game gave the Bulldogs a 14-13 lead, and the hosts never looked back.
The contest was only Yale’s sixth home game of the season — 15 of the team’s first 20 were on the road — and the team believed playing at their home gym made a big difference.
“I think [home court advantage] is that important,” Morin said. “Sleeping in your own bed and eating at the dining hall is a lot better than traveling all night and sleeping in hotel beds, so it’s great to play at home.”
Friday’s win was a crucial one for the Elis as they looked to stay in the conference title race.
PENN 68, YALE 63
But Valentine’s Day at the John J. Lee Amphitheater was not as lovely for the Bulldogs.
Despite not being down more than eight in the second half and cutting the Penn lead to one as late at the 1:23 mark, the Elis never led in the contest and could not make plays down the stretch to come out on top.
Up 64-63 with 1:04 on the clock, Penn’s Jack Eggleston sank the first of two free throws to give the Quakers a two-point lead. He missed the second attempt, but Tyler Bernardini was able to come up with a clutch rebound for the visitors. Penn then ran the shot clock down, and with 27 seconds remaining, Harrison Gaines had his layup blocked out of bounds with three seconds left on the shot clock.
Bernardini then missed a three pointer, but the Quakers were able to come up with another clutch board, this time from Eggleston. Yale was forced to foul Zack Rosen with 21 seconds left, and Rosen hit one of two shots, giving the Quakers a 66-63 lead.
On Yale’s next possession, Zampier missed a runner in the lane and the Quakers knocked down two more free throws to seal its second road win of the weekend.
“I thought they were just a little bit tougher,” head coach James Jones said. “I thought our kids were tough and played hard, but they were just a little tougher. That shows up when you don’t get a late rebound. You don’t block out and get a late rebound when you need to, and you don’t hit some key free throws. That’s a part of being tough.”
The Bulldogs had difficulty finding their groove partly due to Morin’s foul trouble. Following his double-double the night before, the forward played only 19 minutes and shot just one of eight from the floor to finish with a season-low two points.
Zampier and Pinick picked up the scoring slack, contributing 18 and 15 points, respectively, but it was not enough to offset the Quakers, who were led by Harrison Gaines. The sophomore guard tossed in 19 points and the team’s leading scorer on the season, Tyler Bernardini, scored 13 to spearhead the Penn attack.
Unlike against Princeton, Yale was not able to dominate the boards and actually was out-rebounded by the Quakers, 38-37. In addition, the Bulldogs shot just 39 percent from the field for the game and missed six of 16 free throws in the second half.
“I thought our kids played hard and gave us a chance to win, but there was just not enough gas,” Jones said.
The Bulldogs will conclude their two-weekend, four-game homestand when Cornell (17-7, 7-1) and Columbia (10-12, 5-3) visit New Haven on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
The Big Red are currently in first place after winning two and Princeton dropping its two games this weekend. With six games remaining on its schedule, Cornell — the defending conference champion — is in the driver’s seat to represent the Ivy League in the NCAA tournament once again in March.