Two lessons were taught in last night’s game: it’s very hard to win a game with a halftime deficit of over 20 points, and foul shots win games.

American University came out on fire and, despite choking for most of the second half, ended with a series of clutch free throws that iced the game.

But there were many good signs for a Yale team that has put together a string of very impressive games — if not wins. The Elis took undefeated Boston College to double overtime, pushed UNC-Charlotte to the brink of defeat, and then defeated Santa Clara — who started the season by upsetting nationally ranked No. 4 UNC.

The Bulldogs entered this game coming off a victory over Fairfield, a team that had bested Yale four straight times.

Coach James Jones’ limited rotation works well. The starting five plus Dexter Upshaw ’06 and Eric Flato ’08 — and a dose of twins Nick and Caleb Holmes ’08 — is depth enough and allows our best players to get hot and stay in.

Speaking of those subs, Upshaw brings incredible energy to the Bulldogs squad. He was diving everywhere last night for loose balls and rebounds that brought the Bulldogs’ fans to their feet several times.

As for Flato, the first-year player is an electric passer and good at leading the fast-break.

Better yet, he and captain Alex Gamboa ’05 seem to work well together. Giving Gamboa a break bringing the ball up the court should really help the Bulldogs’ best deep threat get more shot attempts.

Though it seemed that forward Casey Hughes ’07 might have been under the weather against American, he still had a fabulous outing. Hughes seemed to strip the American ball-handlers with ease. And his dunks — particularly an NBA-quality alley-oop — were electrifying.

And while center Dominick Martin ’06 started slow, along with the rest of the team, the junior came on quite strong at the end with some clutch post play. He also seemed to get to the free-throw line more than last season.

Even if he didn’t make all eight of his attempts, drawing the foul is almost as important as making the shot — until the end of the game, as American demonstrated with its six straight free throws to seal the game.

Yale forward Sam Kaplan ’07 also demonstrated an outside touch in the game that seemed much improved from last season. He proved last night that other teams will not be able to leave him unguarded just inside the three-point arc.

In addition to his long-range shooting, Kaplan’s defense was solid as always, and his number of rebounds will hopefully increase during the Ivy season.

Guard Edwin Draughan ’05 once again provided the scoring that Yale fans have become accustomed to. In addition, last night it seemed even easier for him to get into the lane for a running floater. Even better, his tough shots were falling in. If Draughan and Martin keep up their scoring outputs, Yale will have the makings of a prolific inside-outside combo.

The bottom line is that while the basketball team might not have the wins to show for it, if the Bulldogs can continue their level of play (as demonstrated at least in the second half of this game), it bodes well for the Ivy season.

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