As the Yale student body heads up to Cambridge this weekend, the men’s basketball team will travel in the opposite direction.
The Bulldogs (0–2, 0–0 Ivy) will take on Evansville, Buffalo and Western Illinois in three non-conference matchups in Indiana. The team will look to rebound from a disappointing start to its campaign in which it squandered a 24-point lead to Sacred Heart last Saturday to drop its season opener in overtime. Two days later, the Elis were outplayed by Atlantic-10 favorite St. Joseph’s in a 26-point loss on Monday.
“After the first two games, the team is doing its best to stay positive,” guard Jesse Pritchard ’14 said. “I think there are good things to take from both our first games, it’s just a matter of fixing the things that went wrong.”
Pritchard added that the team learned from its season opener that it had to maintain a high level of play throughout an entire 40-minute game. After dominating Sacred Heart over the first 25 minutes of the contest to build a 24-point lead, the Elis watched that lead slip away over the game’s last 15 minutes and allowed the Pioneers to send the game into overtime. Yale built a five-point advantage in the first two minutes of that period, but that lead also dissipated, and the Pioneers captured the victory, 85–82.
While St. Joseph’s overwhelmed the Bulldogs on Monday, Pritchard said that game gave the young Yale squad a chance to play against a very strong team on the road in a boisterous environment.
“Everything at this point is kind of a learning curve,” he said. “It’s just a matter of what we can pick up and how fast we can adjust, so the better we can keep our heads up and keep improving … [the better] we’ll be able to turn this ship around.”
This weekend, the Bulldogs will compete against three opponents that none of the current Elis on the roster have faced. They will face play Evansville (0–1, 0–0 MVC) tonight and Buffalo (0–2, 0–0 MAC) on Saturday in Evansville, Ind. before making the trip to Oakland City, Ind. to challenge Western Illinois (1–1, 0–0 Summit) on Sunday.
Although the Bulldogs have already received a scouting report of the Evansville Purple Aces, Pritchard said that the key for the Bulldogs in all three games will be to capitalize on their own strengths.
“Defensively, we always focus on team defense and defensive rebounding and not giving up easy buckets,” he said.
Despite the lopsided loss to St. Joseph’s, the Elis limited a Hawks squad that averaged 71.9 points per game last season to 61 on Monday.
Pritchard said the team will focus on improving offensively this weekend by trying to create uncontested opportunities to score.
The Elis have struggled to find their offensive rhythm in the absence of Greg Mangano ’12 and Reggie Willhite ’12, last season’s top two scorers, who graduated last spring.
“I think we have a lot of weapons, but we need to figure out what role guys are going to play,” captain Sam Martin ’13 said.
All three of the Bulldogs’ games are part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. The team will tip off against Evansville tomorrow night 20 minutes after the conclusion of a contest between Western Illinois and Buffalo at approximately 8:35 p.m.