MEN’S BASKETBALL | Elis fall out of Ivy race

Guard Javier Duren ’15 totaled 15 points against Harvard on Saturday, but the Elis could not overcome a six-point halftime deficit and fell, 72–66.
Guard Javier Duren ’15 totaled 15 points against Harvard on Saturday, but the Elis could not overcome a six-point halftime deficit and fell, 72–66. Photo by Emilie Foyer.

Entering this weekend, men’s basketball team captain Sam Martin ’13 noted that the Elis would likely have to win the rest of their Ivy League match-ups to have any chance at a conference championship. When forward Matt Townsend ’15 drained two free throws with 59 seconds remaining to cut the Harvard lead to 69–66, the Bulldogs had a chance to keep their title shot alive after trailing by as many as eight at the beginning of the second half.

But the Elis (11–16, 5–5 Ivy) could not close the gap further at the John J. Lee Amphitheater on Saturday night. Although the team beat Dartmouth (6–18, 2–8) on Friday to open the weekend, Yale eventually dropped its matchup against rival Harvard 72–66. The Bulldogs now sit tied for third place in the Ivy League with Cornell, four games behind frontrunner Harvard and two and a half games behind second-place Princeton. The Elis would need to win out and the Crimson would have to lose their remaining contests for Yale to take the Ivy banner.

“We’re all competitors,” head coach James Jones said. “Our guys put their heart and soul out on the line and they came up a little short.”

While the loss to Harvard effectively ended their chances at the Ivy League crown, the Elis started the weekend on a high note. The team faced a Dartmouth squad to whom they had lost on the road at the beginning of a month — a loss that represented only the second conference win for the Big Green in the last three years.

The Bulldogs again were challenged early by Dartmouth. Led by guard Alex Mitola, who scored a game-high 27 points and made seven of 10 shots from behind the arc, the Big Green went into the break trailing by only two, 28–26. The Elis distanced themselves from the outset of the second half, however, going on an 11–2 run over the period’s opening 5:21. Guards Martin and Michael Grace ’13 paced the Elis in scoring, tallying 12 points each. Martin was perfect from behind the arc, shooting 4–4 on 3-pointers.

“This team is where I expected it to be at the beginning of the season,” Grace said after the Dartmouth game. “Many people wrote us off early in the year, and I think we definitely had the talent, had the coaching, to be successful in this league and be one of the top two or three teams in this league.”

The next night the Elis’ shot at the crown evaporated in their game against the Crimson. Yale struggled to contain forward Wesley Saunders, the Crimson’s scoring leader on the season, in the first half, as he tallied 12 points on 100 percent shooting from the field as Harvard opened up a 34–28 lead going into the break.

The Bulldogs rallied in the second half, amassing a five-point lead with 9:22 left on a 3-pointer from guard Austin Morgan ’13. But Harvard forward Steve Moundou-Missi responded with a dunk and two minutes later a layup from center Kenyatta Smith with 6:42 left put the Crimson up for good.

Guard Javier Duren ’15 and forward Matt Townsend ’15 led the Elis in scoring with 15 points apiece.

“Every time Yale-Harvard gets together, it’s something special, and we were in it,” Duren said. “Some key mistakes down the stretch, and who knows, we could have had a different outcome.”

The men’s basketball team will play two games on the road next weekend, traveling to face Columbia (11–13, 3–7) on Friday before squaring off against Cornell (13–14, 5–5) on Saturday.

Correction: Feb. 27

A previous version of this article mistakenly stated that the men’s basketball team will conclude its season this weekend, when in fact it has two weekends remaining. 

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