MEN’S BASKETBALL | Wins bookend winter break

Wins bookend winter break
Photo by Maria Zepeda.

The men’s basketball team bookended a tough winter road trip with two big wins as the Elis rounded out their nonconference schedule.

Yale (6–11, 0–0 Ivy) went 3–4 over the recess in its final tune-up contests before entering the 14-game Ivy schedule. Captain Sam Martin ’13 said that these games showed the Bulldogs what they could accomplish this season.

“We played really well against a lot of good teams,” Martin said. “When we get in the league that will really help us out … There’s nobody where you look at the schedule and think ‘We can’t win that game.’”

Celebrating the end of finals period on Dec. 18, Yale cruised to a 112–63 victory over Division III Albertus Magnus (12–1, 7–0 Great Northeast Athletic Conference). Guard Austin Morgan ’13 led the team with 16 points on four 3-pointers and guard Michael Grace ’13 had a game-high seven of the Bulldog’s 27 assists.

After a 10-day respite for the holidays, the Elis returned to action at Nevada on Dec. 28. The trip to Reno was a homecoming for Morgan, who is the all-time leading scorer at Reno High School with 2,046 points. Morgan had 20 points and the game was tied at 56 with 10 minutes left before the Wolf Pack broke ahead for an 85–75 victory.

Two days later Yale fell 78–62 to St. Mary’s (13–4, 2–1 West Coast Conference). That game was played close to center Jeremiah Kreisberg’s ’14 home in Berkeley, Calif. Kreisberg, who said that he used to attend basketball camps at St. Mary’s, scored seven points against the Gaels, then followed that performance with a career-high 16 points two days later as the Bulldogs lost a close contest 80–70 to Iowa State (11–4, 1–1 Big 12) in Ames. Yale held a 53–47 advantage over the Cyclones with just over 10 minutes remaining. Jesse Pritchard ’14 is an Ames, Iowa, native, although the guard was unable to play due to injury.

“I think that in those games their athletes start to wear you down,” Martin said of the Elis’ high-caliber opponents.

Returning to the East Coast, the Elis snapped their three-game skid with a 61–54 victory over Holy Cross (8–8, 0–1 Patriot). Forward Armani Cotton ’15 recorded his first career double-double with career-high 20 points and 12 rebounds. Head coach James Jones said that Cotton’s hard work has begun to pay off on the court.

“Armani is somebody who lays his body out each time he is out on the court,” Jones said. “He never takes a possession off … Certainly playing against teams in our league and the Holy Crosses of the world he has a chance to take over.”

After almost three weeks away from the friendly confines of John J. Lee Amphitheater, the Bulldogs returned home to host No. 13 Florida (12–2, 2–0 Southeast Conference) on Jan. 6.

Yale cut the deficit to 21–20 on a pull-up jumper from the elbow by guard Michael Grace ’13 with 5:33 until halftime. But the Gators (10–2, 0–0 SEC) pulled away to a 35–23 lead at the break as several 3-point attempts from Yale rimmed out.

Still within striking distance, Yale saw its chances take a nosedive as the second half began. After a missed three by Kreisberg, the ball did not cross the half-court line for two minutes as the Gators forced four Bulldog turnovers. Florida went on a 12–0 run during that stretch en route to a 24-point lead.

Guard Austin Morgan ’13 finally broke onto the scoreboard with two free throws, but the Elis would never come closer than 17 points again and lost, 79–58.

“We just kind of froze in a couple of instances in the second half,” Jones said. “They went from 12 [points ahead] to 20 in just three possessions.”

Cotton had his second-straight strong game with 12 points and five rebounds, while guard Javier Duren ’15 had a new career-high with 14 points to pace the Bulldogs.

In their final game before the beginning of Ivy League play, the Elis routed Division III Oberlin College (4–10, 2–4 North Coast Athletic Conference) 104-39. The 65-point margin of victory was the largest in Yale’s history. Martin said that the game helped prepare the team for conference play.

“We got to go through a lot of the options in our offense,” Martin said. “We got to see it working, the things that we’ve practiced. Guys made shots. We shot the ball really well and it is nice to see the ball go through the basket.”

Although the Bulldogs lost all four of their marquee matchups over the break, coach Jones said that these games helped point out weaknesses that the team will want to fix in the Ancient Eight.

“To beat really good teams we have to limit mistakes,” Jones said. “We need to make sure that we can corral a big-time scorer … we need to play better team defense.”

One such scorer that Yale faced was Florida guard Kenny Boynton, who scored a career-high 28 points against the Bulldogs on 8–10 shooting from three.

Yale travels to Providence, R.I., next Saturday to open its Ivy League slate against Brown.

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