There is no place like home. Or is there?
As the men’s basketball team begins its first Ivy road weekend of the year tonight at Dartmouth, followed up by a Saturday night tilt with Harvard, a quick look at Yale’s statistics shows the rims may be friendlier to the Elis away from home.
The Bulldogs (11-7, 3-1 Ivy) are shooting 44.3 percent from the floor and 35.7 percent from 3-point territory when away from the John J. Lee Amphitheater, compared to 40.3 percent and 30.7 percent within the friendly confines.
Head coach James Jones said he does not put much weight into those statistics, and considering the Elis are 6-1 on their home floor, there is no reason to think they are not good at defending their own turf. But those statistics indicate that Yale has saved some of its best performances for the road, which is a big reason why the Bulldogs sport a 4-2 record in hostile gyms. Yale had four road wins all of last season and only one the year before.
“It’s not that we don’t get up to play at home,” Jones said. “But sometimes, on the road, you have got to be more focused.”
Yale will need that focus this weekend in facing the lowly Big Green and the upstart Crimson.
On paper, Yale is the better team in both of these match-ups. But the Bulldogs must rely on their depth to compensate for a number of injuries that will nag them this weekend, and probably for the rest of the year.
“We are beat up, but we have enough guys to step in,” Jones said.
Reserve point guard Chris Leanza ’03, who was in obvious shoulder pain after last week’s game against Brown, had not practiced through Wednesday because of the flu. Ime Archibong ’03 and Scott Gaffield ’04 are still battling through ankle injuries, Mark Lovett ’05 is still recovering from a foot injury, and Josh Hill ’04 is hampered by an injured groin. All four have practiced this week, though Jones said he has kept them out of the more intense, contact portions of practice. Though some players’ minutes may be limited, Jones said he hopes all of them would be available for the games with Dartmouth and Harvard.
Dartmouth (7-10, 0-4) is one of the league’s two weakest teams, but Hanover is a place where contenders can trip up, especially if the Big Green catch fire from the outside.
Dartmouth hits just under 10 3-pointers per game, tops in the league, and shoots the trey at a 39.2 percent clip. That is bad news for the Elis, who rank last in the league in 3-point percentage defense. Dartmouth guard Flinder Boyd carries the bulk of the team’s offense. The guard, who takes many of his shots from the outside, is shooting an outstanding 54.9 percent from the field and is the fifth-leading scorer in the league at 15.4 points per night.
Past Boyd, though, the Big Green does not feature many impressive scoring weapons, just a host of players, like Mike McLaren and Vedad Osmanovic, who can heat it up from outside.
Harvard (10-6, 3-1) should prove to be a more formidable opponent. The Crimson sent notice to the rest of the league that it was a force to be reckoned with when it upset league favorite the University of Pennsylvania in overtime, 78-75, Jan. 12. Harvard has been superb on its home floor, sporting a 6-2 record, and will be hoping to exact revenge against its arch-rival after losing both contests to Yale last year, including an 85-83 overtime thriller in Cambridge.
Patrick Harvey, the league’s second-leading scorer at 18.2 points per game, is Harvard’s main offensive threat. The Crimson does not feature any other double-digit scorers and, lately, have been winning games with defense.
Opponents shoot only 40.8 percent against the Crimson, but Harvard does not do much better on the offensive end, scoring only 64 points per game and maintaining the league’s second-worst field-goal shooting percentage. If the Bulldogs, the league’s second-best scoring outfit, can run the score into the 70s or 80s, the Crimson could have difficult keeping up.
In order for Yale to keep pace in a highly competitive Ivy League this year, a two-game sweep would seem a must, especially with Penn and Princeton coming to New Haven the following weekend. But this year, more than any other, road wins will be difficult to come by.
Last year, of the 24 Friday-Saturday road trips made by the eight Ivy teams, only three times did a visiting team manage to sweep a pair of games — Princeton, Brown and Yale each did it once.
The Elis swept the same road weekend they face now, the Dartmouth, Harvard trip. They would love a repeat performance.