WINSTON-SALEM, N. C. — When the men’s basketball team returned from a ten-day hiatus Thursday against Wake Forest, the Bulldogs played at first like they were still on holiday.
The Elis’ slow start — allowing the Demon Deacons to score the first nine points — ultimately cost them the game, which Yale lost, 72–71.
However, forward Greg Mangano ’12 woke the Elis up when he slammed home an alley-oop pass from center Jeremiah Kreisberg ’14 seven minutes into the game. The Bulldogs pulled to within four points when captain Reggie Willhite ’12 followed Austin Morgan’s ’13 missed lay-up with a slam to send the Elis in at the half trailing only 34–28.
Capitalizing on another slow start by the Bulldogs, the Demon Deacons got back to their game plan after the break. They opened the half with a 14–2 run and then inflated the lead to 58–40 with just nine minutes remaining. Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik said that the Deacons focused on pressuring the Yale attack.
“We worked on disrupting them,” Bzdelik said. “We wanted to disrupt them 94 feet with some run and jump pressure and just wear on them so we worked on that. And that allowed us to turn them over some, and we spurted on them.”
But Yale refused to go away quietly and stormed back to make the contest interesting, outscoring the Demon Deacons 31–14 the rest of the way. Although Morgan’s triple with 1:05 to play pulled the Elis to 68-66, Wake Forest guards Tony Chennault and C.J. Harris held the Bulldog charge at bay. When Morgan connected again from long distance it was already too late, and the Bulldogs lost 72–71, falling one point short of a stunning comeback.
Towards the end of the game the Elis instituted a press of their own. Although the team does not normally press, Yale head coach James Jones said that the situation called for it.
“Necessity is the mother of invention,” Jones said. “We got down and [pressing] was a way for us to get back, to try to force tempo. They’re very patient in the half court, and if we allowed them to just walk the ball up and run their offense, then we weren’t going to get enough stops to get back in the game.”
Although Wake committed five turnovers during the Elis’ run, they were able to break the press for crucial baskets that kept the Bulldogs at bay. In addition to breaking the press, the Demon Deacons also exploited Yale’s defense to get points in the paint throughout the game. Wake center Carson Desrosiers said his team focused on attacking Yale’s interior defense. He added that the team noticed Yale’s big men did not come out to defend ball screens, so the Deacons spaced out the Bulldog defense to open up scoring opportunities inside.
Jones said Kreisberg’s foul trouble hindered the Bulldogs in the paint defensively.
“It seemed like every time he turned around there was a foul called against him or he was in a bad situation and turned the ball over, so that certainly hurt us tonight,” Jones said. He added that although Kreisberg scored just two points, the Bulldogs got help from unexpected sources to even the scoring out.
One Bulldog who picked up the load offensively was guard Mike Grace ’13. Playing in his hometown of Winston Salem, Grace scored ten of his season-high 12 points during Yale’s second half comeback.
Yale will wrap up the 2011 portion of its schedule on Saturday at the University of Florida. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU at 2:00 p.m. EST.