Three games’ worth of playing in-your-face, man-to-man defense proved too exhausting for the men’s basketball team as Jason Forte and the Brown Bears prevailed where Tim Begley’s Quakers and Will Venable’s Tigers had not.
After holding Begley and Venable scoreless from the floor, the Bulldogs’ man-to-man defense came up short against the Bears, who had four players score in the double digits. The Bears got off to a 10-0 run to start the game and constantly sliced up Yale’s defense by running routes all over the court and creating mismatches. The Bulldog defense was often unable to prevent Brown second chances, allowing eight offensive rebounds in the first half. And although the Elis were able to come back from a nine-point halftime deficit to take the lead for a while, the rally was due more to improved shooting from the field than to better protection of the basket.
Captain Alex Gamboa ’05 said much of the game’s outcome was decided in the first minutes.
“I think you have to look to our poor performance in the first half,” Gamboa said.
This sort of confusion gave Brown forwards Keenan Jeppesen and Luke Ruscoe numerous chances to either drive down the lane or the baseline. The screens the Bears ran in the first half also opened up guard Damon Huffman, who, like Forte and Jeppesen, finished in double digits in scoring. Although Eric Flato ’08 tried to stick with Huffman as he zigzagged around the court, Huffman was able to knock back two three-pointers with barely an Eli hand in front of his face.
Yale head coach James Jones said the Bears’ style of offense was not particularly complex.
“They had a simple cross screen and we just didn’t jump to the ball quick enough,” Jones said. “The ball was passed from one side to the other side — it’s a simple cross screen. In the second half we got over the top of it, and we were able to defend it, but in the first half we were slow and they got shots at the basket.”
Down 36-27 after the break, it seemed that Jones must have said something to rouse the Bulldogs, who allowed the Bears only three offensive rebounds while picking up 18 defensive boards in the second half. The Elis also showed flashes of intensity, such as when Gamboa responded to missing a defensive rebound by stealing the ball from Brown’s Marcus Becker and taking it the length of the court for a lay-up.
But the Bears were still able to either find a way to drive to the hoop or set up a three-pointer. With 4:15 left in the game, Ruscoe had a clutch dunk to tie it up. About two minutes later, Forte came up big when he hit a NBA-length three for a 61-57 Bear lead. The Bears finished with a 41.7 field goal percentage against the Eli defense, six percentage points better than the first-place Quakers’ shooting last Saturday in New Haven.
Brown head coach Glenn Miller said the Bears’ accuracy from the field was an important part of the win.
“God knows how hard we’ve worked on our offense,” Miller said. “I don’t think we’ve shot over 30 percent in seven games. Tonight we really executed with our screens and our cuts and our ball movement.”