Thanksgiving break was anything but a break for the Yale men’s basketball team (2–5), which played four games in 10 days, most recently a 64–48 loss to Army’s Black Knights at West Point on Saturday afternoon.
The long week got started last Saturday night when the Bulldogs took on Quinnipiac (2–1) at the John J. Lee Amphitheater. Despite a 29-point effort from captain Alex Zampier ’10 and a strong defensive effort (Quinnipiac shot just 39.1 percent from the field), the Elis could not come up with the win, falling victim to the 24 offensive rebounds they surrendered to the Bobcats.
On Monday the Bulldogs traveled to Hempstead, N.Y., to take on UNC-Charlotte’s 49ers (3–1) in a neutral site matchup. The game was Yale’s third in the Dick’s Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off tournament. Jordan Gibson ’10 had a career night for the Elis, scoring 25 points and adding seven rebounds, but Charlotte’s Shamari Spears, a transfer from Boston College, proved too much, dropping 28 points on the Bulldogs, who suffered a 88–74 defeat.
Yale’s final game in the Tip-Off came Tuesday in Hempstead against Elon’s Phoenix (2–4). The Bulldogs used strong defense, forcing 15 turnovers in the second half, to keep themselves within striking distance and found themselves down seven with five minutes to go. As they have all season, the Elis battled back, tying the score on a Zampier three-pointer with just 1:04 to go. Following two Elon free throws which put the score at 65–63, Zampier made a pass to forward Mike Sands ’11 for a dunk to tie the game. Guard Porter Braswell ’10 then came up with a huge steal and converted two free throws at the other end to give Yale its first lead of the half. The Bulldogs then forced another Phoenix turnover to send Braswell back to the line where he sealed the deal, knocking down both free throws to give the Elis a 67–63 victory and a 2–2 record in the Season Tip-Off.
The Elis rounded out their busy week with the matchup against Army’s Black Knights (4–1) at West Point. It was a tough shooting day for the Elis, who shot just 4–21 from behind the arc and 8–19 at the line in a 64–48 loss.
“Poor offensive execution killed us today,” head coach James Jones said after the game. “We couldn’t make the pass we needed. We had 15 turnovers, which isn’t a horrible number, but those are 15 chances we didn’t have to score.”
Army jumped out to a 10–4 lead early in the first half, taking advantage of four Yale turnovers and a missed layup in the first seven minutes. But the Bulldogs battled back, using some passing from Zampier and two threes from Raffi Mantilla ’11 to take a 20-19 lead with six minutes left in the half.
The Black Knights responded with a 15–4 run going into the break, as the Elis couldn’t capitalize at the line or in the paint, and headed to halftime down 32–24.
Army stayed hot after halftime, extending their lead to 37–24 before a Jordan Gibson free throw and a Zampier jumper finally got things started for the Bulldogs. But Yale could never get the lead back under double digits, and despite nine second-half points from Braswell and five from forward Reggie Willhite ’12, the Elis fell 64–48.
“They forced us out of our game with their defense, and we didn’t execute,” Gibson said. “We did not match their effort or intensity all game. That’s why we lost.”
“Our offensive execution along with some mental lapses on defense were definitely what cost us the game yesterday,” Willhite echoed. “We are in many regards an inexperienced team and are still learning how to play as a cohesive unit.”
Part of the reason the Bulldogs are still learning to play as a unit is injuries. Yale has yet to be at full strength this season, losing center Paul Nelson ’10 to an ankle injury early on. Forwards Josh Davis ’10 and Greg Mangano ’12, who was back in action for the first time this season Saturday, are also coming off injuries.
“It’s hard to say what our potential is because we haven’t been at full strength all season,” Jones said. “I haven’t been able to establish a rotation for the team. We should get everyone back over the next two weeks, and then we’ll be able to see where we are.”
With new players stepping up to fill the void left by those injured, it seems that the Bulldogs may find themselves in a good place when that happens.
“As players go down, other individuals are called to step up and perform,” Willhite said. “So far, they have done so very well. As the season continues and players return healthy, it will only strengthen our team as we prepare for the games to come.”
Yale will be back in action Wednesday when they take on the University of Hartford (2–4) at Hartford at 7 p.m.