Buy your ticket now, because the rest of the men’s basketball season is going to be a wild ride.
The Bulldogs (9-13, 6-3 Ivy) used a formidable defense and a balanced offensive attack this weekend, pummeling Dartmouth on Friday 78-50 — their biggest Ivy win in 27 seasons — and overpowering Harvard the next night 66-58. The home wins moved the Elis into a three-way tie for first place in the Ivy League with Princeton and Pennsylvania.
With five games remaining, the team controls its own destiny in its hopes to bring home an Ivy League championship.
“We are gaining some momentum — we’re feeling a lot better about ourselves,” forward Tom Kritzer ’01 said. “The sky is the limit. It’s all about us.”
Neil Yanke ’01 was the poster boy for that momentum over the weekend. The senior center went 17 for 22 from the floor over the weekend, scoring 38 points and hauling in 18 rebounds overall.
“Neil Yanke — he doesn’t say much, but he is starting to step up and say a lot now,” Yale head coach James Jones said of the captain’s weekend performance.
But Yanke was not the only one who stepped up.
On Saturday night against Harvard (12-10, 5-5), four Elis scored in double figures. Yanke led the way with 18 points and eight rebounds, Chris Leanza ’03 chipped in with 11, while Ime Archibong ’03 and Isaiah Cavaco ’01 both added 10. The win gave Yale its first season sweep of archrival Harvard since the 1994-95 season.
With just under 14 minutes left in the game, the Crimson’s Onnie Mayshak went to the free-throw line with the Elis clinging to a 36-35 lead. The sophomore center blew the chance to retake the lead for his team, missing both attempts. The Bulldogs then went on a 22-9 run that put the Crimson away.
The run began with a Leanza three-pointer, followed by another three-pointer from Scott Gaffield ’04 the next trip down the floor.
The run ended with a flourish, as Ime Archibong nailed a three pointer, followed by a Yanke block of an Elliot Prasse-Freeman shot on the defensive end. The senior captain came down the floor and made a layup to give the Bulldogs a 58-44 lead.
“Our offense was clicking tonight. Guys found each other and we made some shots,” Jones said.
The Elis assisted on an incredible 22 of their 23 field goals in the game.
As strong as the Elis were on offense, the Bulldogs won the game on the defensive end. They held Harvard to a mere 32 percent from the field, including a dismal four for 26 performance from three-point range.
“[The players] have finally realized what we can be good at. We can be good at playing good team defense,” Jones said. “Guys stepped up and they believe it now. They are getting it done.”
The Bulldogs proved Jones’ point emphatically Friday night at the start of the Dartmouth (7-16, 2-8) game.
In the first five defensive possessions, Yanke drew a charge on Mark Kissling, Archibong rejected a three-point attempt by Greg Buth, and Leanza had two steals. That intense defense allowed the Elis to build an 11-point lead, 18-7, midway through the first half. The Bulldogs led by double figures the rest of the way.
“You have to give Yale credit. They were ready and we weren’t,” Dartmouth head coach Dave Faucher said. “They capitalized on the beginning and then just kept on going.”
Dartmouth’s sharp-shooting Buth — the third leading scorer in the Ivy League at 16.7 points per game — was never able to get anything going. Archibong, Matt Minoff ’04 and Paul Vitelli ’04 combined to completely shut him down, holding the Big Green guard to two points on the evening.
“It was good to start off and set the tone with the block,” Archibong said of his early block on a Buth three-point attempt. “If you start off getting into an offensive player’s mind early in the game, it is going to set the tone for the rest of the game.”
The Elis dominated the game in virtually every statistical category, shooting at a 52 percent clip, out-rebounding the Big Green 41 to 29, and forcing 18 Dartmouth turnovers.
Yanke had his fourth double-double of the season, with 20 points and 10 boards. He led Yale’s dominance in the post, as the Elis scored 46 points in the paint.
The bench contributed 30 points for the Bulldogs, led by a season-high nine points from Bill Parkhurst ’03 and eight from Minoff.
“Everybody got into the action. When you can go 10, 11 [players] deep, that is pretty special,” Jones said. “Tonight, everything was in place.”
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