High off a weekend that vaulted it into Ivy title contention, the men’s basketball team crashed down to earth Tuesday in a devastating loss that virtually eliminated any chance of capturing the league crown.
Only three days ago, the Bulldogs (9-13, 5-4 Ivy) scored impressive victories over Princeton and first-place University of Pennsylvania. But after these thrilling victories, a tired Eli squad fell to the Brown Bears, 70-64, last night in a make-up game of the scheduled Jan. 22 contest that had been snowed out. It was the Elis’ first Ivy League home loss of the season, ending a four-game winning streak. The victory for Brown (10-13, 3-6) was its fifth straight over the Elis and snapped a four-game losing skid.
The loss drops the Elis out of second place in the Ancient Eight and nearly extinguishes any hope for an Ivy title. They are now three games back of first place Penn with five games left to play. Cornell retakes the second spot that the Big Red held prior to last weekend.
On a night when the Bulldogs were clearly off their game from the start, they came astonishingly close to a come-from-behind victory. A three-pointer by guard Eric Flato ’08 with 24 seconds left on the clock brought the Elis within one of the Bears, 65-64. After Brown guard Jason Forte made one of two foul shots, Yale brought it up the court with 21 seconds left, down by two, with a chance to tie or win it all on one shot.
Guard Edwin Draughan ’05, who averaged 20 points last weekend and was named Ivy League Player of the Week for his performance against Princeton and Penn, got the ball at the top of the three-point line. But rather than his characteristic jumper or drive to the hoop, he traveled with 13 seconds left to give Brown the ball. The Elis turned to fouling, but it was to no avail. The game was lost.
“Edwin was off his game tonight,” Yale head coach James Jones said. “He’s made us win in so many ball games. We expect so much from him, and he just didn’t give it to us tonight the whole time he was on the floor.”
Draughan still finished with 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting, but he also had seven turnovers out of the 18 total Eli giveaways. The Elis shot 49 percent from the field overall and 54 percent in the second half, but they ultimately lost too many offensive opportunities on turnovers — the death knell sounding on the final one.
After two high-intensity games this weekend, the Elis looked tired from the beginning against Brown. The Bears scored the first 10 points of the game and jumped out to a 19-5 lead midway through the first half. But the Elis responded with the post play of center Dominick Martin ’06 and the work of forward Casey Hughes ’07 on both ends of the court.
In one stretch, Hughes had two big blocks on the same Brown possession and then ran the length of the court for a powerful ally-oop dunk on a perfect toss from Flato near center court. On the ensuing possession, Hughes stole the ball from Forte and slammed it home.
After the first dunk, the crowd chanted, “Put it on SportsCenter,” directing its call to ESPN SportsCenter host Chris Berman, who was in attendance to support his alma mater, Brown.
The play of Hughes and Martin helped stop the bleeding. Martin’s 12 first half points on 6-for-8 shooting kept the Elis within nine by halftime, 36-27.
Neither team scored for the first two minutes of the second half — an eternity on the basketball court — and for the rest of the period, they traded baskets and mini-runs. The Elis whittled Brown’s lead to as few as four points with 16 minutes remaining when guard Alex Gamboa ’05 stole the ball from Brown guard Becker Marcus and dribbled the length of the court for a layup.
But Brown responded with a 6-0 run and maintained a lead near double-digits until Yale went on a 6-0 run of its own. Flato’s three-pointer at 7:41 brought the Elis within a basket, 53-50, and Draughan followed with the team’s next seven points. His jumper at 4:41 gave the Elis their first lead of the night, 56-55.
Brown guard Luke Roscoe answered with a dunk for the Bears and a free throw; the Eli lead disappeared in 30 seconds and would not be found again. Ruscoe shot 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the closing seconds, and the Bears as a team went 7-for-9 from the line in the final minute.
“We dug ourselves a hole in the first half,” Gamboa said. “We were able to climb out of it, but they made big shots down the stretch, and we didn’t.”
Four Bears scored in double figures, led by Ruscoe’s 15 points and guard Jason Forte’s 13. Brown out-rebounded Yale 36-31, including 11 offensive rebounds, the majority of which the Bears converted into baskets.
The Elis were led by Martin, who had 20 points, and Draughan, with 15. Brown head coach Glenn Miller still had high praise for the Ivy Player of the Week.
“Draughan in one-on-one situations caught the ball off the screens, and we had a guy on him, but he just torched us,” Miller said. “He made individual plays. Your best players have to make plays for you in certain situations if you are going to win.”
Jones said he was concerned coming in about how his squad would respond to playing so soon after this weekend’s draining competition.
“You worry a little bit about the fact that it was an emotional weekend,” Jones said. “You had that high going. You had that energy, but sometimes you have a let down. You get so high to play the two, quote unquote, powerhouses in your league, and now you’re playing the Brown team that’s struggled a little bit. But we should have had the energy [as] Brown has pretty much handed it to us the last few years.”
Jones said the Elis can do nothing more than continue to play hard.
“Every loss is a devastating loss,” Jones said. “Every time you lose, you don’t feel good about it. I haven’t felt this way in a few weeks now.”
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