After a pair of convincing road victories last weekend against Columbia and Cornell, the men’s basketball team is hoping that it has at least one more pair of wins left in its hand as the Elis (8-9, 2-2) prepare to take on visiting Dartmouth (4-13, 0-4) Friday and Harvard (10-7, 2-2) Saturday.
All the chips were stacked in Yale’s favor last weekend. The Elis held the Big Red to just 30.6 percent shooting from the floor and 3-of-15 from beyond the 3-point arc. Yale also forced 20 Cornell turnovers and outrebounded its opponents, 44-35.
“We haven’t won prior to last weekend for a while and our team was just really tired of losing,” guard Edwin Draughan ’05 said. “During the week prior to those games, coach had a couple of meetings with me and some other players on the team to make sure we start playing like the way we played last season and I think those guys stepped it up in the Cornell and Columbia games.”
Yale will need a similar effort this weekend. Dartmouth — the Elis’ first matchup of the weekend — currently shares last place with Columbia in the Ivy League standings and has yet to see its first league victory. In part, Dartmouth has suffered from a lack of experience: only four members of the Big Green’s roster are upperclassmen.
But despite being picked to finish last in the Ivies by the preseason media poll, Dartmouth has shown more resilience than the prognosticators predicted. Last weekend, the Big Green came six points shy of upsetting Princeton at Jadwin Gymnasium. Dartmouth is currently second in the league in free throw percentage (.726) and third in blocked shots (44).
“[Dartmouth] lost a lot of talent last year,” forward Ime Archibong ’03 said. “But they’ve picked it up and are doing better than people thought they were going to do. We’re definitely not taking them lightly. With the position we’ve put ourselves, we can’t even begin to look at any team as a non-challenge.”
Harvard, Yale’s second opponent this weekend, will be out for redemption. Yale has won its last four encounters with the Crimson, including last year’s victory in Cambridge where the Elis overcame an 18-point halftime deficit.
Unlike Dartmouth, Harvard’s deck is stacked with experience: all five Crimson starters are seniors. The Cantabs currently have three players averaging double figures in scoring, two of which are among the league’s top five scorers — Patrick Harvey (16.4 points per game), Brady Merchant (14.6) and Sam Winter (11.9). In addition, Elliott Prasse-Freeman leads the league in assists with 7.8 per game. As a team, the Crimson is second in the league in field goal percentage defense and third in scoring offense.
“All five of their starters are seniors,” Yale head coach James Jones said. “Having five players on your team that have been playing under the same coach, with the same teammates, running the same plays for four years can be a big advantage.”
Harvard’s trump card is Harvey, a unanimous First-Team All-Ivy selection from last season, when he averaged 18.1 points and 2.1 steals a game, both good for second in the League. Harvey also led the Ivies in 3-pointers with 2.7 a game. This season, Harvey is second in the league in 3-pointers per game (2.5) and points per game. He is also fifth in assists.
“Harvey is doing real well,” Jones said. “Harvey’s going to hurt you in two ways: getting open looks in transition and spotting up from outside. We’re going to make sure we keep track of where he is on the floor at all times.”
Part of containing Harvey will depend on how well Yale handles Harvard’s motion offense. Instead of the wear-and-tear style of offense that Yale faced against Cornell and Columbia, the Crimson likes to attack the middle and kick the ball out to its perimeter sharpshooters.
“We let Cornell drive a little too much down the middle; we’ll have to take that away from Harvard this weekend,” Draughan said. “All through our week of practice, we’ve been practicing forcing people baseline and taking away their line of sight so they can’t make that kickout pass.”
Harvard is also the best rebounding team in the league, and the Elis will need to stifle the Cantabs on the boards to come away with a victory.
“We have to make sure that we rebound the ball well, particularly on the offensive end,” Jones said. “They all attack the glass and they are all very aggressive on the boards. We’re a team that likes to run and you can’t run if you don’t rebound the ball.”
Besides rebounding, Yale needs to cash in on Harvard’s limited bench.
“Their bench is a little bit shorter than ours and they don’t have the kind of depth that we have,” Jones said. “We’re going to try to wear them down and make them go to their bench.”
Despite a formidable opponent, Yale is betting on its momentum to carry it to victory this weekend.
“We just want to come in and use the energy that we got last weekend,” Archibong said. “We’ve been getting that kind of energy at practice; now all we have to do is carry it over to this coming weekend.”
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