FAIRFIELD, Conn. — The Bulldogs’ big men started strong, but their effort down the stretch was herculean.
After Sacred Heart center and leading-scorer Kibwe Trim put up the first two points of the game he might as well have called it a night. From that point forward, the Bulldogs’ frontcourt, namely center Dominick Martin ’06 and forward Sam Kaplan ’07, dominated the paint on both ends of the floor, outscoring the Pioneers (1-4) 44-22 in the paint, and leading the Bulldogs (2-3) to a 74-64 victory last night at the Pitt Center.
The Elis jumped out to an early 9-2 lead with Martin and Kaplan scoring seven in the first 3:45 of the game. Coupled with two quick fouls on Trim, the Bulldogs’ swarming man-to-man defense limited the Pioneers to three-for-18 shooting from the field over the next 10 minutes.
“[Martin and I] shut down Trim,” Kaplan said. “That was a big point [of emphasis] for us.”
A double-double from Martin and a career-high scoring effort from Kaplan neutralized a three-point thrashing from the Pioneers early in the second half. Looking to extend a 37-27 halftime lead, the Elis charged out of the halftime huddle. Captain Alex Gamboa ’05 first found Martin inside for a quick score and then 40 seconds later squared up and knocked down a three, prompting the Pioneers’ head coach Dave Bike to demand a timeout with not even a minute off the clock.
With 17:10 remaining in the half, a 46-27 Yale lead began to melt away as the Pioneers got hot. In a stretch where the Bulldogs only scored on three of 17 attempts, the Pioneers knocked down five three pointers during a 21-6 run.
Yale head coach James Jones attributed the spurt to a coaching error, as Gamboa was on the floor with four reserves — Caleb Holmes ’08, Nick Holmes ’08, Eric Flato ’08 and Dexter Upshaw ’06.
“There were too many young guys on the floor at one time,” Jones said. “[The starters] were tired — I left them on the floor longer than I should have [to start the second half].”
Jones was forced to call a timeout when, on the heels of a crowd-silencing baseline three from Flato, the Pioneers’ Joey Henley pulled down a huge offensive rebound and put it back up to reduce the Eli lead to a single basket, 57-54. With 6:11 to go, Kaplan scored off a feed from Flato, spurring a 12-2 run to seal the game.
“Sam’s stronger down low this year,” Martin said of Kaplan, who scored seven of his 19 points in the final minutes and was almost perfect from the line, going 7-for-8.
Although Martin struggled from the free-throw line, hitting only one of his seven attempts, he contributed four blocks and altered several shots while pulling down a team-leading six offensive rebounds.
“He did a great job [tonight],” Jones said. “[Martin] is playing like an absolute stud.”
Martin finished with 19 points on nine-for-16 shooting, putting his season field-goal percentage at 65 percent.
Between the effort of Kaplan and Martin and with Edwin Draughan ’05 returning to old form, chipping in 16 points and eight rebounds, the Bulldogs hope to carry momentum from the win into Saturday’s home opener against Bucknell.
“When [Draughan] plays to his capability and Dominick plays to his capability, it’s hard to beat this team, it’s hard to lose,” Jones said.