Seldom has the men’s basketball team soared so high and sunk so low in a span of 48 hours.
The Bulldogs (5-12, 1-3 Ivy) began the weekend with a 77-67 win at Columbia Friday night, ending a four-game losing streak with their first Ivy League win, before concluding with a crushing double-overtime 87-82 loss at Cornell Saturday night.
“It’s a tough [weekend] to deal with,” forward Dexter Upshaw ’06 said. “We expected to go in and win both games, but unfortunately we didn’t. A lot of guys are disappointed, especially because we went to double overtime. We really felt like we had a chance to win — we should have won.”
In their first game, the Elis gave head coach James Jones his second win in three career match-ups against his younger brother, Columbia head coach Joe Jones. The historic brotherly duel began last season when Joe took over as the Lions’ head coach. With several members of the Jones family sitting courtside, the elder brother took the series lead in coaching his Elis to a dominating win.
But one night after their first taste of Ivy League triumph,
the Elis once again sampled the bitterness of defeat, this time at the hands of Cornell in a crushing double-overtime loss in Ithaca, N.Y. Despite a career-high 25 points from guard Edwin Draughan ’05 and a five-point lead with 1:28 remaining in the first overtime, the Elis faltered in the face of clutch shooting from the Big Red to fall 87-82.
Draughan’s jumper with 90 seconds remaining in the first overtime gave Yale a 74-69 lead, but Cornell forward Ryan Rourke hit a jumper near the one-minute mark and forward Lenny Collins nailed a three-pointer with 13 seconds left to tie the game at 74-74.
The score was tied at 78 with 3:29 left in the second overtime before Cornell went on a 9-1 run to seal the win.
“Guys on the other team hit big shots,” Upshaw said. “We didn’t make free throws as consistently as we would have liked. There were a variety of factors
contributing to us not winning the game.”
Rourke led the Big Red with 22 points and 12 rebounds, followed by Collins, who scored 10 of his 21 points in overtime.The Elis shot over 50 percent for the game and four players broke double-figures in scoring, but they could not contain the Big Red down the stretch. Neither team dominated during regulation. Cornell led at the half by one, 35-34, and the Bulldogs tied it up by the end of regulation.
Only 24 hours earlier, the Elis completed one of their best performances of the year, defeating Columbia before a boisterous home crowd. More than 2,500 Lions fans opened the game chanting to Yale’s coach Jones, “Who’s your brother?” in yet another exposition of New York City’s attachment to Pedro Martinez’ infamous daddy declaration.
Five Bulldogs broke double figures, led by Draughan with 20 points and small forward Caleb Holmes ’08, who came off the bench to score a career high 15 points while shooting 3-for-5 from beyond the arc. The Elis led comfortably
at the half, 42-34, and never allowed the Lions to come closer than four points in the second period. When Columbia narrowed the gap to 52-48 with 9:26 remaining, the Bulldogs answered with a 10-0 run and maintained
a lead of eight points or more the rest of the way.
Columbia’s coach Joe Jones said Draughan was clearly the game’s MVP, but he added that the entire Eli squad played well when Yale desperately needed a win.
“Edwin Draughan I thought was the major difference in the game,” Joe Jones said. “He was really able to control the game in the first half. Whenever
the shot clock was winding down, he was able to make plays. I thought, all around, they played as a team that was on the ropes. They needed a win. I thought we played hard, but not hard enough.”
Entering Friday’s game, the Lions had enjoyed standing alone in second place in the League with a 3-1 conference record. But Columbia dropped to the middle of the pack and a .500 league mark after losses to Yale on Friday and Brown on Saturday.
James Jones said the Columbia win showed his team how good it can be, especially since the Bulldogs won without much offensive help from center Dominick Martin ’06.
“I think the guys on the team realize that they’re a good basketball team, and I think they realize they can be exceptional at times,” Jones said. “We didn’t play a perfect game tonight and we still won. Dominick scored four points. Any time that he scores four points and we win, that’s a tremendous plus for us since he’s our second leading scorer.”
Martin has been struggling since Yale opened Ivy play last weekend against Penn and Princeton. Martin entered conference action ranked third in the league in scoring (15.4 ppg). But he has seen his points per game average plummet over the first two weekends of Ivy competition, averaging
more than ten points below his non-conference mark. He scored just two points against the Quakers and six against the Tigers in the pair of losses. He was held to four points against the Lions and seven points against the Big Red.
Upshaw said that every player struggles and believes Martin will rebound.
“We all make our mistakes, we all have our tough times,” Upshaw said. “I feel like he’s just in a slump, but he’s definitely capable of playing better and he knows that.”
The Eli offense still performed exceptionally this weekend, in large part due to the work of Draughan and the heretofore silent Bulldog bench. Against Columbia, guard Eric Flato ’06 made good use of his minutes off the bench, hitting several momentum-turning shots and finished the night with 11 points. Flato added nine points against Cornell. In addition to his 15 points against Columbia, Caleb Holmes contributed 11 points against the Big Red on 4-for-5 shooting, including a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc. Holmes said he is finally feeling comfortable on the floor.
“I’ve been struggling shooting,” Holmes said. “But I started shooting it well last week. I hit [a three-pointer] last week against Princeton, which was probably my first three in a long time, and it gave me some confidence. I knew that if I got some open looks I could knock them down.”
Overall, the Eli bench contributed 26 points against Columbia and 23 points against Cornell. The reserves entered the weekend averaging just over 11 points per game.
After all of the emotional ups and downs, at the end of the weekend the Elis find themselves right where they started — at the bottom of the league standings.
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