If either of this weekend’s men’s basketball games comes down to a half-court shot at the buzzer, Yale is definitely going to win.
As they launched bombs from half-court at the end of practice Thursday, the Elis (14-11, 6-4 Ivy) showed all the makings of a relaxed, confident and energetic team going into their final road trip of the season. The Bulldogs travel to New York to take on Cornell (10-14, 5-5) and Columbia (10-13, 3-7), hoping to hold onto the momentum from their recent 77-66 win at Harvard.
But neither team will be an easy matchup. The Big Red are desperate to break their five-game skid, and the Lions are streaking into the weekend on the heels of a home sweep of Penn and Princeton. When Columbia and Cornell came to Yale two weekends ago, the Bulldogs easily took down both opponents, and the New York teams will be looking for revenge.
“They’ve been playing really well lately,” forward Jason Abromaitis ’07 said. “And we swept them back here. You don’t forget things like that.”
Friday’s contest will take the Elis to upstate New York, where they have seen great success in the past few years. Yale has won nine of its last 10 meetings against the Big Red, including a 74-65 victory in New Haven on Feb. 11.
One of the Bulldogs’ goals for the weekend will be containing guard Adam Gore, Cornell’s freshman phenom. Gore, who has been named Ivy League Rookie of the Week seven times this season, leads the team in scoring (13.1 points per game) and is just five 3-point baskets shy of Cornell’s single-season school record. He made six 3-point shots when the Big Red were in New Haven on 55 percent shooting from behind the arc.
“We made a couple [of] mistakes on defense,” point guard Eric Flato ’08 said. “We got trapped under a couple [of] screens, but he’s a really good shooter. We have to go over the top and get help from our big guys. He’ll get his shots, but I don’t know if he’ll go six for 11 again.”
Gore is not Cornell’s only dangerous player. Jason Hartford, a reserve forward, led all players with 21 points against the Bulldogs, and All-Ivy guard Lenny Collins had 11 points and played for 39 minutes. Also playing post for the Big Red is center Andrew Naeve, whose 7.4 rebounds per game put him second in the conference. Naeve had 10 points and 10 rebounds against the Elis, including five offensive rebounds, a statistic the Bulldogs will look to bring down this weekend.
“They rebounded the ball pretty well on offense and got a couple easy baskets off of that,” guard Chris Andrews ’09 said. “We need to rebound much better this game than the last time we played them.”
Columbia, Yale’s opponent on Saturday, surprised the Ivy League last weekend by sweeping the Killer Ps, the top two teams in the conference. The Lions were carried by sophomore guard Justin Armstrong, who came off the bench to score a total of 38 points between the two nights, including a baseline jumper to down Princeton last Saturday. Armstrong shared Ivy League Player of the Week recognition with Yale center Dominick Martin ’06, whose career-high 26 points boosted the Bulldogs past Harvard.
The Lions’ strength rests predominantly in their post players, forwards Ben Nwachukwu and John Baumann, who had 18 and 17 points, respectively, when Columbia visited John J. Lee.
“They’re a good team,” Flato said. “They’ve been struggling a little bit this season. They have two good big guys — they’re young and they make some mistakes, but they’re really talented. That’ll be a tough game for us.”
The weekend is the last time Yale faces opponents on the road before returning to the Elm City for a final homestand against Penn and Princeton.