From the first day of the season, the men’s basketball team could look forward to its Ivy League opener against Brown in front of a home crowd. Opening evening eventually arrived, but the scheduled game did not. Because of the blizzard this weekend, the contest was postponed to Feb. 22.
Rather than starting their quest for the conference title in John J. Lee Amphitheater, the Elis will open league competition on the road against Penn next Friday. The following night the Bulldogs will travel to Princeton, N.J., to take on the Tigers. Princeton and Penn are ranked first and second, respectively, in the preseason Ivy League poll, with the Elis taking the third spot.
Yale forward Casey Hughes ’07 said the postponement does not bode well for the Elis.
“I think it was negative for our team because we need as much momentum as we can get when we go against Penn and Princeton next weekend,” Hughes said. “I think a lot of us are angry and disappointed.”
Head coach James Jones said the Bears had suggested playing the game Saturday afternoon but he rejected the idea because the Elis would lose the advantages of the home court — including a large crowd.
“I thought we were going to be able to get [the game] in,” Jones said. “[Brown] actually brought up the suggestion of playing at 2 p.m., and I didn’t think that was a good idea. We wouldn’t have had anyone here. We want energy and juice in the building. I know [the players] are disappointed we didn’t play the game. But I know they’re excited about going down to Penn and Princeton this weekend, which is always a challenge.”
Hughes said the Elis felt good about opening their season against Brown before facing Penn and Princeton but added that the team will be ready for next weekend.
“We had a lot of confidence going in against Brown,” Hughes said. “We had confidence we could beat them. We thought our schedule favored us a little bit, but now we’re thrown right into the fire. I’m not scared by any means, but I am a bit anxious.”
The players arrived at the gym Saturday afternoon, when they were originally going to take a walk-through of the keys to the evening’s game. Jones had them scrimmage five-on-five with a running clock and the coaches refereeing.
Guard Edwin Draughan ’05 said beginning league play against Penn and Princeton, no less on the road, is a daunting task.
“It’s a totally different mindset now,” Draughan said. “We understand that going to play at Penn and Princeton is always difficult. But in order for us to be the best, we have to beat the best.”
The Bulldogs will now play their first four conference games on the road over the next two weekends and will not open at home until Feb. 11, when Dartmouth comes to town.
Forward Dexter Upshaw ’06 said the first half of the season, in which the Elis played nine of 13 games on the road, has prepared the team well for the upcoming test.
“You really have to play with the cards that you’re dealt,” Upshaw said. “We’re still the same basketball team. We played on the road a lot last semester, so we’re just looking to the next challenge and getting off to a great start. We’ve had great energy this week in practice. I think we’ll come out energized and motivated to play next week going against Penn.”