The men’s basketball team continues to flex its muscle on the road.
In the non-conference schedule, Yale posted big wins at Penn State and Clemson. Now that the Bulldogs are in the thick of Ivy League competition, the road games mean more, but the wins keep coming.
The Bulldogs won their fourth and fifth straight road games over the weekend. Yale (13-7, 5-1 Ivy) kicked off its two-game road swing with a 73-55 downing of Dartmouth (7-12, 0-6) in Hanover, N.H., Friday night. The next evening in Boston, Yale did its best Jekyll and Hyde impersonation to overcome a poor first half and defeat Harvard (11-7, 4-2), 66-57.
The two-game sweep has the Elis alone in second place in the Ivy League standings, behind 4-0 Princeton. With the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton coming to New Haven next weekend, the Bulldogs are where they need to be in order to contend for the league crown.
In the first half Saturday night against Harvard, the Bulldogs looked like anything but contenders as they fell behind the Crimson 38-22 at the break.
During halftime, the Bulldogs summoned their resolve to turn in one of their best halves of basketball this year. Yale shot 60.7 percent from the floor while holding Harvard scoreless for stretches of six and a half, five and a half, and three and a half minutes. From the 19:43 mark to the 1:07 mark, Yale outscored Harvard 40-11.
“Our team knew we had a chance to comeback,” said Edwin Draughan ’05, who scored all 11 of his points in the second half. “Harvard probably thought the game was over.”
A Mark Lovett ’05 3-pointer with 7:27 left put Yale ahead 49-46, its first lead since 8-7. Ahead 52-51 with four and half to play, Yale scored on five straight possessions — with one basket from Draughan and two each from T.J. McHugh ’03 and Alex Gamboa ’05 — to bring the lead to 11 and complete the emphatic turnaround.
Draughan was four of six from the field in the second half, pulling up for a pair of sweet jumpers over his Crimson defender. It was a far cry from the 6-foot-5 guard’s first half, in which he went scoreless and was whistled for a technical foul for acquainting Harvard’s Brian Sigafoos with his forearm.
McHugh chipped in eight of his team-high 14 points in the second, and Gamboa added 7 points in the frame as the Bulldogs played better team basketball.
Yale also benefitted from the foul trouble of Harvard’s Andrew Gellert, perhaps the best defensive player in the league, who picked up his fourth foul with 16 minutes to play.
Yale also used its defense to create offense. In the second half, the Elis abandoned their man-to-man defense for a two-three trapping zone that gave Harvard fits. The Crimson, playing only its second game after a two-week layoff, had nine turnovers and shot only 30.8 percent from the floor.
As much as the second half was a model of success, the first was a lesson in ineptitude. Yale shot the ball poorly, committed sloppy turnovers, and was passive on defense.
“In that first half, I don’t know who those guys were in my uniforms, but I’ll make sure they don’t come back,” Jones said.
Patrick Harvey, the only Crimson player to hit double digits, led all scorers with 21 points. McHugh, Gamboa and Draughan were the only Elis in double figures, but Josh Hill ’04 and Scott Gaffield ’04 each chipped in 7 points coming off the bench.
Friday night against Dartmouth, Draughan, McHugh and Paul Vitelli ’04 led the way as the Bulldogs registered a 73-55 win at Leede Arena.
A 3-pointer by Charles Harris pulled the Big Green within five, 52-47, with 10 minutes to play. Yale then pulled away with a 20-3 run over the next eight and a half minutes to end Dartmouth’s hopes.
Yale shot 48.1 percent on the game, including 42.9 percent (9 for 21) from 3-point range. And led by McHugh’s nine rebounds, Yale crushed the Big Green on the boards, 42-26.
Dartmouth’s Vedad Osmanovic led all scorers with 15 points while the team’s leading scorer, Flinder Boyd, was held to 10 points, five below his average.
Draughan paced the Elis with 14 points as Vitelli and McHugh each poured in 12. Matt Minoff ’04 added 9 points and Hill contributed eight.
The Elis have now won three road games in a row, and six of their last seven overall. Yale and Princeton were the only title contenders to escape the weekend unscathed, as Penn, Brown, Columbia and Harvard all lost games. The Bulldogs figure to be in good position for a title run, but the team is keeping its focus on the short term.
“This is like a 14-game tournament for us,” McHugh said. “This is how we have to approach every game.”