Chris Dudley ’87 is no longer the only Yale basketball player who knows what an NBA schedule is like.
The men’s basketball team is in the midst of a six-game, 14-day stretch that is the busiest of the season. So far, the Elis are 2-1 in the stretch, having lost at Colgate, 87-75, in their last outing. They look to return to their winning ways tonight when they travel to Brooklyn to challenge Long Island University at 7 p.m.
Yale had a modest two-game winning streak snapped with Monday night’s loss to the Red Raiders. The defeat does not detract from the fact that Yale is in one of the more successful stretches under third-year head coach James Jones. The young team has won four of its last six games, with each of the wins coming by double-digit margins, and has shown tremendous potential.
But Monday’s loss to the Red Raiders highlighted two chinks in the armor that the Elis must overcome to prolong their early season successes: a lack of depth at the point guard position and inconsistent defense.
Starting point guard Alex Gamboa ’05 has been impressive early on, averaging 11.5 points per game and 3.5 assists. Right now, he is the only true point guard in the regular rotation.
Fortunately for the Elis, this problem should only be temporary. Point guard Chris Leanza ’03, the team’s leading scorer last year, is recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, and Jones has said he expects him to return in January for the start of Ivy League play.
Until Leanza’s return, Gamboa must provide the lion’s share of the ball-handling, and Monday night against Colgate illustrated what can happen when he is not at top form.
After committing two early fouls against Colgate, Gamboa was limited to eight minutes in the first half. Off-guard Edwin Draughan ’05 took over at the point, and though he is a competent ball-handler, the Elis present a much better offense with Gamboa on the floor.
“Alex does a better job running the team; Edwin is better on the wing,” Jones said.
Draughan’s scoring opportunities are limited at the point, and he is more prone to turnovers than Gamboa. Draughan’s 26 giveaways are most on the team.
Only eight games into his college career, Gamboa has shown the potential to be a top notch Ivy League point guard, but he is still a freshman and therefore susceptible to making rookie gaffes.
“[Gamboa] came in and tried to do a little much,” said Jones of the 6-foot Nevada native’s effort upon returning to the floor after early foul trouble kept him out. “That is a freshmen mistake.”
Gamboa’s foul trouble was only part of the problem on Monday night. Team defense was another part.
Over the season, Jones has noticed an improvement in his team’s defense. Yale often employs a man-to-man defense, but mixes in a zone in order to keep opposing teams off balance offensively.
“We need to be able to take people out of things they want to do,” Jones said. “[Monday] night, we did not do a good job taking Colgate out of what they wanted to do.”
The Red Raiders were able to get the ball to their main offensive threat, forward Pat Campolieta. One of the top players in the Patriot League, Campolieta had 22 points and 10 rebounds despite Yale’s double team.
“A big part of defense is mental toughness,” captain Ime Archibong ’03 said. “We weren’t there mentally last night.”
Yale’s defensive difficulties do not compare to those of LIU, though. In their last game, a 30-point loss to Quinnipiac, the Blackbirds (0-3) gave up 94 points — and that was the lowest total they have allowed this season. On average, they are giving up 101 points per game.
“They shoot the ball really well. They have some guys that are really, really athletic,” Jones said. “They don’t do a good job at defending.”
While Yale is the favorite on paper, Archibong warned the team must have a better mental approach than it did against Colgate if it is to pick up the road win.
“There is nothing wrong with expecting to win,” Archibong said. “But you can’t afford to assume to win, which is what happened [Monday] night.”