This time last week, the Elis were in desperate need of a win following a disappointing 1–3 start to their Ivy slate. But after a historic sweep of the Penn-Princeton road trip, Yale will look to solidify its place in the Ancient Eight title race when it hosts Columbia and Cornell this weekend.
The Elis (9–14, 3–3 Ivy) will start a four-game home stand against the Big Red (11–12, 3–3 Ivy) tonight at 7:00 p.m. and then turn around to face the Lions (10–10, 2–4 Ivy) on Saturday night.
Captain Sam Martin ’13 said that Yale must be prepared for a plethora of looks when it is on offense against the Big Red.
“I think [Cornell is] going to try to speed us up,” Martin said. “They’ll probably trap a lot of ball screens. I think they throw a lot of different defenses at you and try to get you flustered, which we need to be ready for that and stay calm and I think we’ll be okay.”
Cornell ranks second among the Ivies with 69 possessions per game: two more than Yale’s average. The Big Red are also one of the best teams in the conference at forcing turnovers. They are tied with Harvard atop the Ivy League with 7.4 steals per game.
The Elis will get a change of pace on Saturday when they face the Lions. Columbia ranks seventh in the Ivy League with just 63.4 possessions per game. Many of those possessions go through star Columbia senior point guard Brian Barbour.
“Everything goes through Barbour,” Martin said. “We definitely need to do a good job slowing him down, kind of in a similar way we did with [Sean] McGonagill in the second game against Brown. They’re both two of the best point guards in the league.”
Barbour, a nominee for the Bob Cousy Award, given to the top point guard in men’s collegiate basketball, is second in the Ivies with 4.8 assists per game and paces the league with 3.4 assists per turnover. He scored just eight points last Sunday at Harvard but dished out eight assists to help lead the Lions to an upset of the first-place Crimson.
After more than two weeks since their last home game, the Elis will end their season with six of their final eight games in the J. Lee Amphitheater. Despite returning from their road trip just two games out of first place in the Ivy League, forward Armani Cotton ’15 said the Bulldogs should not think beyond this weekend.
“I think we’re in a beautiful position,” Cotton said. “[But] right now we’re just going to keep our eyes on [this] weekend.”
As easily as the Bulldogs barged back into title contention, Yale could slip out again with losses this weekend due to the parity of the Ivy League. Only three games separate the first and last place teams in the Ancient Eight.
Yale went a combined 3–1 against Cornell and Columbia last season, including a sweep of both home games.