The men’s basketball team will take the national stage this weekend when the Bulldogs travel to Ithaca, N.Y., for a Friday night showdown with Ivy League leader — and No. 25 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll — Cornell (18–3, 4–0 Ivy). That matchup will be followed by a trip to the Big Apple for a big dose of sibling rivalry, as head coach James Jones’ Bulldogs will take on his younger brother Joe’s Columbia Lions.
The Elis (8–13, 2–2) have earned splits in each of their past two Ivy League weekends. They come into this weekend’s games in fourth place in the league, trailing third-place Harvard (14–4, 3–1).
The Big Red lead the Ivy League with a perfect 4–0 record. They have won their first four conference matchups by an average of 29.2 points per game and are nationally ranked for the first time since 1951. Their only losses have come against stiff competition: No. 1 Kansas, No. 4 Syracuse and Seton Hall. Among their 18 wins are impressive triumphs over Alabama, UMass, St. Joseph’s and St. John’s.
The crew from Ithaca is led by Ryan Wittman, the league’s second leading scorer (17.5 ppg); Jeff Foote, the conference’s leading rebounder (8.4 rpg); and Louis Dale, the league’s leader in assists (5.0 apg). That trio leads Cornell into Friday night’s game having won 16 of their last 17 — the lone loss by just five points to Kansas on Jan. 6.
The Lions (7–11, 1–3) will face off against the Bulldogs after a Friday night date with Brown. Columbia has just one player averaging double figures (Noruwa Agho with 17.0 ppg), and 10 different players with at least one start so far this season. The Lions’ coach, Joe Jones, has a 6–7 record against his older brother, James, in 13 career matchups.
As for the Elis, they will counter with the league’s leading scorer, captain Alex Zampier ’10, who needs just one steal to set Yale’s all-time career record in that category. He will be joined in the backcourt by Porter Braswell ’11, who shone in last Friday’s game against Penn, scoring 14 points on 4-6 shooting. Down low, the duo of Mike Sands ’11 and Greg Mangano ’12 — neither of whom began the season as starters — has come on strong down the stretch. Sands is averaging 6.0 rebounds per game to go along with 12 points over the past seven games, while Mangano has contributed 7.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game so far this season.
If they hope to retain a shot at the league title, the Bulldogs must start pulling off upsets, and this weekend provides them with an opportunity to do just that. Last year, the Elis nabbed a home win against the Big Red, and with one loss in the league already, they have little margin for error if they wish to win the conference and earn a bid for the NCAA tournament.
Tonight’s tip-off against No. 25 Cornell is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Newman Arena in Ithaca.