A sluggish first half against Brown on Saturday proved too much for the men’s basketball team to surmount.
The Bulldogs (9-8, 1-1 Ivy) clashed with the Bears (5-10, 1-1) for the second consecutive weekend, but found drastically different results in Providence this past Saturday than they did in last weekend’s conference opener in New Haven. The Bulldogs dominated the first game, 75-61. But this time around, the Bears were the ones calling the shots en route to a 67-62 win, their first conference victory of the season. Even a 19-1 run late in the second half and 47 percent shooting could not boost the Elis to a second victory over Brown.
“I think that when you play a team a second time, and the first time you play them you destroy them, your psyche isn’t in the right place,” Yale head coach James Jones said. “We all knew that this game wouldn’t be easy, and that we would have to play harder than we did in the first game, but we didn’t do that.”
After consistently protecting the ball in their first contest against Brown, the Elis’ tendency to turn the ball over resurfaced this past Saturday. The Bulldogs committed just 12 turnovers last weekend, seven less than their season average and just one more than the Bears. But this time, the Elis handed the ball over 17 times compared to Brown’s eight. The Bulldogs’ turnovers led to 26 points for Brown, nearly half of the team’s total.
Brown’s low turnover rate was partially due to Yale’s diminished defensive performance. In their first meeting, the Bulldogs held Bears guards Damon Huffman and Marcus Becker to a combined 12 points. This past Saturday, Huffman had 15 and Becker had a game-high 18 points. The Elis had just 21 defensive rebounds, compared to last week’s 32, and had only five steals to Brown’s 11.
“I don’t think we played with the same intensity from the get-go, which definitely hurt us,” captain Josh Greenberg ’06 said. “They mixed up their offense a little bit. They just tried to execute on their end, and we didn’t play nearly as good defense as we did last game.”
Despite the Bulldogs’ problems, the outlook was not always hopeless for them. Yale led Brown, 19-16, with eight minutes left in the first half, but Mark MacDonald hit a three-pointer with 7:19 left and Brown went on to take a 39-30 halftime lead, from which the Elis could not recover.
“I just think that our defense broke down for about eight minutes or so at the end of the first half,” guard Eric Flato ’08 said. “That’s what kind of killed it for us. They were hitting their shots and we weren’t really contesting them and making them miss.”
Discounting a blowout loss to Kansas on Jan. 4, the Elis’ most recent game against Brown is their lowest-scoring contest since a Dec. 8 loss to Hartford, when they scored just 60 points. Despite a strong performance by Flato, who led the Bulldogs with 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting from the field and 50 percent accuracy from beyond the arc, the Elis did not find the basket as often as they usually do. Forward Sam Kaplan ’07 was the only other Yale player to tally double digits, with 11 points.
The Elis’ relatively few trips to the free-throw line also cost them points. The Bulldogs usually find themselves at the line more than 20 times per game. But against Brown this past weekend, the Bulldogs hit nine of just 15 foul-shot attempts. The Bulldogs also shot a dismal 60 percent from the foul line, down from their 70 percent average.
“We didn’t get to the free throw line,” Jones said. “And if you don’t get to the free throw line, that hurts your ability to put points on the board.”
The Elis, now in a three-way tie for third place in the Ivy League, will host Harvard (10-5, 2-0) and Dartmouth (2-13, 0-2) next weekend. Harvard’s two wins over Dartmouth have boosted the Cantabs to first in the league, along with Penn, while Dartmouth is the only Ancient Eight team yet to find a league win. The Bulldogs will try to halt Harvard’s win streak and deny Dartmouth its first conference victory.
“We’re just going to have to make sure that our defense and intensity are there,” Flato said. “We have to understand what we need to do defensively and help each other out, and hopefully we’ll be able to stop them.”