The men’s basketball team put up 90 points in its blowout of Long Island University Wednesday night, but the Elis took more pride in their defensive effort than in their offense.
“We wanted to see how well we could contain their offense,” Paul Vitelli ’04 said.
The result: the Bulldogs held the Blackbirds to 54 points, 30 below their average coming into the game.
Yale (5-4) will be looking for another strong defensive effort Saturday when they take on Albany (1-5) at 3 p.m. at the John J. Lee Amphitheater.
It will be the fourth game in eight days for the Elis. With such little time to prepare for opponents, head coach James Jones said playing strong team defense is a top priority.
“A lot of people were really upset with our defensive performance [at Colgate],” said Edwin Draughan ’05 of the Elis’ 87-75 loss Monday night. “We weren’t very active and aggressive.”
Against Long Island, Draughan decided to take a new mental approach to the game.
“I tried to start being defensive minded,” said Draughan, adding that good offensive play would follow. “When you are active on defense, you really get into the game and you make good decisions.”
For Yale, good defense led to easy baskets on the offensive end. To execute a similar game plan Saturday, the Elis defensive effort must start with containing Albany guard E.J. Gallup.
A 6-foot 4-inch sophomore, Gallup was one of the leading freshman scorers in the nation last year, averaging 17.4 points per game. This year, he has improved his clip to 21 a game while accounting for one-third of his team’s field goal attempts.
In Albany’s 60-48 loss to Siena, Gallup scored 36 points. Only three other Great Danes scored, none had more than six points.
“He is a great shooter,” said Jones of Gallup, adding that his team is prepared not to let one man beat them.
Against Army last Saturday, Yale zeroed in on standout guard Chris Spatola, holding him without a field goal for the game’s first 29 minutes and keeping him under his scoring average for the game.
Unlike Albany’s attack, the Bulldogs have displayed balanced offense all season — eight different Elis have scored in double digits.
Vitelli scored in double figures in the team’s first seven games, a streak that was snapped this week against Colgate. The 6-foot 7-inch forward suffered a minor ankle sprain while going for a rebound early in the game. Though he stayed in that game and played against Long Island, his mobility has been somewhat limited.
“Even though it is painful, I can fight through it,” Vitelli said. “Right now I am about 75 percent full strength. I should be all right in a week or so.”
Vitelli is not the only injured Eli. Scott Gaffield also sprained his ankle against Colgate and did not dress for Long Island. He expects to play Saturday.
The team will take on Albany Saturday and then Rhode Island on Dec. 11 before taking a break from its hectic schedule. After playing 11 games in the first month of the season, Yale will play only three in the second month and none until Dec. 28.
“We have accumulated a bunch of nicks and scrapes all throughout the lineup,” Gaffield said. “[The time off] will be good to make sure everyone is in ship-shape for league play.”
Notes: While the Elis hope to beat the Great Danes on Saturday, they should remember to thank Albany for producing half of the Eli coaching staff. Jones, a 1986 graduate of Albany, played for the basketball team and was an assistant coach there from 1990-1995. Assistant coach Ted Hotaling, a 1995 graduate of Albany, is one of the school’s all-time leading scorers with 1,125 career points — Yale’s traveling woes continued at Long Island. After the game, the battery on the team’s bus died, delaying the return to New Haven two and half hours. Earlier in the season, a bus never showed up one day to take the Elis to the airport.