Entering this past weekend’s slate of games, the men’s basketball team knew that it had only the slightest chance at capturing the Ivy League crown. The Elis would have had to win the rest of their games this season, while Harvard would have to lose their remaining contests and Princeton would have to lose all but two of its last five games.
Despite these long odds, the Bulldogs received all the help they could have hoped for: Princeton beat Harvard on Friday, and while the Tigers won their second game of the weekend, the Crimson were upset by Penn on Saturday night.
But in a season riddled with inconsistency, the Elis could not help themselves. Yale (12–17, 6–6 Ivy) dropped its game on Friday night to Columbia (12–14, 4–8) in demoralizing fashion, 59–46, before rebounding to beat Cornell 79–70 with its best offensive performance of the conference season.
“I think we came out a little complacent against Columbia after beating them by 20 at home,” forward Matt Townsend ’15 said. “But I thought the guys responded really well on Saturday against Cornell. From the tip we started the game hungrier, executed our offense and jumped out to a big lead we held the entire way.”
The game between the Elis and the Lions at Levien Gym on Friday was truly a tale of two halves. Yale jumped out to a 26–21 lead in the first period, led by forward Matt Townsend’s ’15 eight points. No Columbia player scored more than five in the game’s opening stanza.
Columbia, however, emerged from the locker room like a different squad in the second half — perhaps out to avenge its season-worst defeat at the hands of the Bulldogs two weeks earlier. The Lions held the Bulldogs to 20 points in the second half while pouring in 38 of their own. Guard Maodo Lo, who scored a game-high 20 points, tallied 16 of those in the second half.
“I think that we ran a terrible offense, especially in the second half,” captain Sam Martin ’13 said. “We didn’t play together and when you don’t do that, you get bad shots … On the other end, they got good shots.”
Forward Matt Townsend ’15 added that the Bulldogs allowed the Lions to penetrate into the paint too often and struggled in the motion offense that they have been effective with recently.
Spurred by their lackluster offensive perfromance in the second half against Columbia, the Elis came out firing on all cylinders on Saturday night against Cornell. The Bulldogs dominated the Big Red from the outset, outscoring Cornell 38–25 in the first half.
“Starting the Cornell game, that [loss to Columbia] really motivated us,” Townsend said.
The team was again led by Townsend, who scored 13 of his game-high 19 points in the first half. Guard Nolan Cressler and forward Errick Peck also scored 19 points each for the Lions. The Elis shot 47.1 percent overall, ten points better than Cornell’s 37.1 shooting percentage.
“Winning on the road, especially way up at Cornell, is tough,” Townsend added. “I think there were a lot of good things we can take moving forwards as a team.”
The men’s basketball team’s season will end this weekend with two games at home in the John J. Lee Amphitheater. The Bulldogs will try to play the spoiler against Princeton (16–9, 9–2) on Friday before finishing their season by taking on Penn (8–20, 5–6) on Saturday.