MEN’S BASKETBALL | Yale looks to stay in the hunt

Guard Javier Duren ’15 will look to build on his career-high seven assists against Cornell last Friday as the Elis face off against Dartmouth and Harvard this weekend.
Guard Javier Duren ’15 will look to build on his career-high seven assists against Cornell last Friday as the Elis face off against Dartmouth and Harvard this weekend. Photo by Maria Zepeda.

With six games remaining on its slate, the men’s basketball team can see the end of the Ivy League season quickly approaching. While the Elis sit three games back in the league standings, they have an opportunity to make up ground in this weekend with two home games against conference foes.

Yet when Harvard and Dartmouth come to town, the Bulldogs (10–15, 4–4 Ivy) will face two squads to whom they lost on the road earlier this year. The team will take on the Big Green (6–16, 2–6 Ivy) on Friday at the John J. Lee Amphitheater before squaring off against the Crimson (15–7, 7–1 Ivy) the following night.

“We are definitely looking forward to the weekend to avenge those losses,” forward Justin Sears ’16 said. “The teams in this league are pretty evenly matched so many of these games come down to the team that brings more energy and effort out on the floor. If we compete hard this weekend, I feel we can come away with a sweep.”

The weekend of Feb. 1 proved heartbreaking for the Elis in two different ways. On Friday, the team took on then-undefeated Harvard in Boston. While the Bulldogs trailed for most of the contest, the team made a run at the end of the second half, only to fall 67–64 to its archrival.

“We made a lot of stupid mistakes against Harvard,” captain Sam Martin ’13 said. “Just little mental errors that can easily be corrected.”

Martin noted that Yale often lacked focus on defense against the Crimson, allowing sharpshooting Harvard guard Laurent Rivard to connect on five 3-pointers in seven attempts.

Yale was also hurt by a slow start on the road against Harvard, and the Elis must look to attack the Crimson from the outset. While the Bulldogs outscored the Crimson 37–27 in the second half, the team entered final period down 13. The Bulldogs have struggled to get going early in games this season, including last weekend, when they fell behind 11–2 to Cornell in a 68–61 loss to the Big Red.

After falling to Harvard on Friday, Feb. 1, the team then traveled to Hanover to take on the Big Green the next day. While the loss to Harvard hurt the Elis because of the schools’ age-old rivalry, the loss to Dartmouth proved painful for another reason — before its win against Yale, the Big Green had won a single Ivy League contest over the past three years.

“We shot the ball terribly [at Dartmouth],” Martin said. “Being at home, it’s a little bit easier to shoot the ball. We shot the ball great against Columbia [on Saturday].”

Every member of the Bulldog squad except for two scored against Columbia last Saturday in a 75–56 blowout. The Bulldogs will look to their two senior sharpshooters, Martin and Austin Morgan ’13, to provide a spark from long range. Martin has been especially impressive from deep lately, making nine of 13 3-pointer attempts over the past four contests.

The Bulldogs will also look to their youth for support this weekend. The Elis’ two double-digit scorers against Columbia were both underclassmen. Sears and Brandon Sherrod ’15 both contributed 10 points off the bench against the Lions.

The Elis have little margin for error for the next three weeks as they close their conference slate if they hope to have any shot at the Ivy League title. But the squad remains optimistic entering the weekend.

“I think we’re feeling good about these two games,” Martin said.

The Elis tip off at 7 p.m. on Friday before taking on Harvard at 8 p.m. on Saturday on CBS Sports Network.

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