Back-to-back losses last weekend at the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton may have taken Yale out of the Ivy League title race, but the Bulldogs are determined not to let the recent setback wipe away the rest of their season.
As Yale prepares to host Cornell and Columbia this weekend, pride is on the mind of every Eli.
“Its disappointing to know that we don’t control our own destiny now,” forward Ime Archibong ’03 said. “But guys know that we have to keep fighting for pride. We’re always playing for ourselves, for our coaches, our fans, and for Yale basketball.”
In last weekend’s 68-57 loss to Pennsylvania and 56-49 loss to Princeton, the Bulldog offense did not show for over three-quarters of its playing time. After an impressive first half against Pennsylvania last Friday, the Yale offense collapsed, averaging only 24 points and 33.3 percent from the floor in the next half that night and during the entire game against Princeton.
“Certainly, we’ve gone over what we did wrong against Princeton and Penn,” Yale head coach James Jones said. “For whatever reason, we were not ourselves this past weekend.”
Learning from mistakes has been a point of emphasis for the Yale team. On Monday, the team did not practice but instead watched film. They went over lapses and discussed solutions. In later practices, coaches reviewed the basics of Yale’s motion offense.
“For the past couple of practices, we’ve broken down our motion offense,” guard Edwin Draughan ’05 said. “We’ve worked on moving for a purpose rather than moving for the sake of moving.”
Both teams visiting this weekend will look to settle the score. Earlier this season, Yale defeated both Columbia 65-51 and Cornell 76-47 on the road.
“We beat these two teams pretty nicely at their places,” Draughan said. “I’m sure they’re going to want redemption for last time and come out pretty hard. This will be a true test of whether we’re ready to play and prove ourselves or whether it will just be a countdown to the rest of the season.”
The key for Yale will be invading Cornell’s and Columbia’s Princetonian gameplans, which involve holding the ball to run the shot clock far down. Yale had trouble controlling Princeton’s offense last weekend, giving up several backdoor passes for easy layups.
“In the last couple of years, we haven’t been beat by the Princetonian offense, especially the backdoor cuts,” Archibong said. “But coach has been harping on us this week to not let that happen this weekend — make the guy run at your chest and follow them on their cuts.”
Yale will face Cornell, the stronger of the Elis’ two opponents, Friday night. Despite being dominated by the Bulldogs at their last meeting, the Big Red has shown signs of life in recent games. Against visiting Pennsylvania Feb. 7, Cornell almost came away with an upset, barely falling 70-67. Last weekend, Cornell thrashed preseason favorite Harvard 82-69.
Despite its youth, Cornell has a lot of talent. Freshman Lenny Collins was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week for the sixth time last week. Eric Taylor leads Cornell in scoring (13.3 points) and rebounding (7.0 boards), and Ka’ron Barnes had a career-high 25 points in the Harvard rout.
“A mini rivalry has kind of developed [between Yale and Cornell] from the last two seasons,” Matt Minoff ’04 said. “They have a young team, and their guys want to come out and prove something: that they are a team on the rise. We were in their place a couple of seasons ago, and now we have to put them in their place.”
After leaving the Ivy League title chase, Yale looks toward a possible post-season NIT bid and pride for motivation.
“With a lesser team and with lesser people [this weekend] might have been the end of the season,” Jones said. “But there’s a lot of character on this team, and we will be fighting till the very end. There’s still some room for us to get into the NIT and make a post-season appearance. But even if this were not the case, there’s nothing greater to play for than pride.”