Friday, it was Casey Hughes ’07. Saturday, it was Alex Gamboa ’05.
The story of the weekend, however, was Matt Minoff ’04.
Yale has won three of its last four games, including a pair of victories over Columbia and Cornell this past weekend. And fittingly it has been the Bulldogs’ captain who has led them to their recent success.
“[Minoff’s] got an unassuming personality,” Yale head coach James Jones said. “He’s not loud. He leads in other ways.”
One of those ways is by example.
It was Minoff who held Penn’s Jeff Schiffner, the 2002-03 national leader in three-point shooting percentage, to four points in Yale’s win over the Quakers last Friday. Schiffner managed only a single shot from beyond the arc the entire game — an airball.
“I wasn’t happy with the way I was playing,” Minoff said. “I had to pick it up. As captain, it was my responsibility to step up and get
other players to step up too.”
Gamboa said that he noticed a change in Minoff in the Penn game, incidentally, the same time the Bulldogs began to turn their season around.
“Penn’s always a sensitive game for Matt,” Gamboa said. “He’s from around there and almost went there, so it means a lot to him.”
The Cherry Hill, New Jersey native continued his stellar play into last weekend, putting together his best all-around performance of the year against the league-leading Big Red. He collected 14 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal.
Not known for his offense, Minoff, who celebrated his 22nd birthday Saturday, keyed the Bulldogs’ scoring in the first half. Twice, he grabbed rebounds and beat the Big Red down the court for easy baskets, and once went back-door for an alley-oop.
“I thought he was outstanding,” Gamboa said. “He played well on both ends of the floor.”
When Minoff is not on the floor, the Bulldogs have struggled, as was apparent against the Lions. With eight minutes left in the first half, Minoff picked up his second foul and was forced to sit out and watch Columbia take a 29-25 lead into the break.
The 6’6″ forward returned at the start of the second half. He made his presence known immediately with an emphatic dunk that capped a 7-0 Yale run to open the frame.
“Matt is the heart of the team,” Gamboa said. “He’s the engine. He has brought so much energy and intensity to the team, and it rubs off on everyone else.”
Although Minoff’s impact on the team is obvious to anyone who has watched him play, his numbers — 6.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg — are not going to catch anyone’s eye on the stat sheet.
“Sometimes he gets lost in the shuffle,” Gamboa said. “But his numbers of late have been big. He’s playing with a real sense of urgency.” Minoff acknowledged that his college career is coming to an end.
“This is my last shot,” he said. “It’s my last chance to make the tournament. I’ve got to give it all I got.”
Two weeks ago, Yale’s days appeared to be numbered. But now, thanks in the large part to Minoff, the Bulldogs cannot be counted out of the Ivy title race.
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