As captain Neil Yanke’s ’01 layup attempt rolled out of the hoop Friday night, the men’s basketball team hit a major speed bump on the road to an Ivy League title.
The captain’s missed layup with three seconds left against Columbia (11-14, 6-6 Ivy) squandered the Elis’ (10-13, 7-4) opportunity to tie the game, in which they eventually fell 62-59. The next night, the Bulldogs took out their frustration on Cornell (7-18, 3-9), winning 74-61.
The loss to Columbia, coupled with Pennsylvania and Princeton’s sweeps this weekend, dropped the Bulldogs a game behind the Quakers and the Tigers in the race for the title. But if the team wins its three remaining games, it will win at least a share of the Ivy League championship.
“We have two games left at home, in our building,” Yale head coach James Jones said. “We’re happy — we are very excited about [our position].”
The Elis needed to register at least one win over the weekend to make sure their destiny would stay in their own hands. They did that with their 74-61 win at Cornell.
Guard Ime Archibong ’03 posted a new career-high, pouring in 27 points on nine for 13 shooting, to lead the Elis to their victory over Cornell.
“I talked to the [Cornell] coach after the game and he said they were going to give [Archibong] opportunities [during the game],” Jones said. “Archibong did a great job.”
Yanke was the only other Bulldog in double figures in the winning effort, netting 21 points and eight rebounds.
“We were not happy about the way that we played the first time [against Cornell],” said Yanke, referring to the 73-70 defeat the Big Red handed the Elis in New Haven Feb. 9.
This time around, the Bulldogs had their best offensive performance of the season, shooting a season-high 54 percent from the floor on 25 of 46 shooting. On the defensive end, they held the Big Red to a mere 33 percent from the field.
The Bulldogs were not the only team that exacted revenge over the weekend.
Friday night, Columbia handed Yale a frustrating three-point defeat, avenging their two-point, double overtime loss to the Elis in the Elm City Feb. 10.
Just as in that overtime thriller, this past weekend’s Columbia-Yale contest was full of last-minute excitement.
Columbia’s Craig Austin — whose 31 points accounted for half of his team’s offense — missed two free throws with 12.3 seconds left, failing to extend his team’s 61-59 lead.
On the other end of the floor, the Lion defense collapsed on a penetrating Chris Leanza ’03, who kicked the ball to Yanke underneath the basket. Yanke had a layup attempt to tie the game at 61-61, but he could not convert.
“The ball sat on the rim — it seemed to roll around up there forever,” Yanke said. “I couldn’t believe I missed it.”
After Lion Joe Case made one of two free throws, Yale got the ball downcourt but the Elis failed to get a shot attempt off that could have tied the game.
In a closely contested game, Yale did not help itself from the free throw line. The Bulldogs made only 13 of 24 attempts from the charity stripe.
“You are not going to shoot free throws well every game,” Jones said. “Unfortunately, we let one slip away.”
From the opening tip-off, it did not seem that a close contest would be in the cards. The Elis jumped out to a 19-6 lead to start the game, as they were firing on all cylinders.
And then the turnovers began. The Bulldogs had two sequences of five consecutive turnovers in the first half, allowing the Lions to claw their way back into the game. The first half ended with a 25-12 Columbia run that knotted the score at 31-31 at the break.
“They made shots. We were stagnant on offense,” Jones said. “Columbia played a very good basketball game.”
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