Although splitting a road trip against middle-of-the-pack Ivy League opponents may not seem too impressive, the men’s basketball team secured a winning overall record and its sixth consecutive league season with a .500 or better record in its penultimate weekend of conference play.
Though the Elis (15-12, 7-5 Ivy) fell to Cornell (11-15, 6-6), 68-64, on Friday, they bounced back with a 71-65 win over Columbia (11-14, 4-8) the following night. Center Dominick Martin ’06 led the way for the Elis, averaging 17.5 points and 11.5 rebounds for the weekend en route to scoring his 1,000th career point and recording his fourth double-double in his last six games.
“We bounced back from a loss on the road by coming back and beating Columbia on their senior night, when they had everything going for them,” Yale head coach James Jones said. “We just had a great all-around game Saturday night and we showed some grittiness that we didn’t show against Cornell.”
The Bulldogs got off to a rocky start this weekend. Cornell took the early lead Friday night, going up 14-8 midway through the first half. The Elis missed eight of their first 11 shots and had four turnovers during the first ten minutes.
“I don’t think we shot the ball particularly well in our back court,” Jones said. “We struggled making shots. I thought they did a better job defensively against us, and we did a poor job defensively against them.”
While the Bulldogs may have played poorly, the Big Red also had a few surprises waiting for the Elis in Ithaca. Forward Casey Hughes ’07 smothered Cornell’s leading scorer, standout freshman guard Adam Gore, but two reserves — Brian Kreefer and David Lisle — stepped up offensively. Lisle and Kreefer both scored career highs on Friday night, adding 16 and 10 points, respectively. Overall, Cornell’s bench outscored Yale’s subs, 39-13.
“I just didn’t think we played with enough intensity on the defensive end,” swingman Caleb Holmes ’08 said. “Casey did a really good job on [Gore]; he got a couple good looks, but he didn’t knock a lot of shots down. But since they got a lot of easy baskets, he didn’t really need to score a ton on them.”
Even Martin’s 17 points and 15 rebounds could not save the Bulldogs. The Big Red had 12 steals, compared to the Bulldogs’ four, and Yale was out-rebounded, 35-32.
“Our commitment to defensive rebounding, especially in the second half, was a problem,” swingman Travis Pinick ’09 said. “We didn’t box out the way we should have, and they beat us on a couple backdoor layups. We just didn’t bring the same effort that we did when we were at home.”
A come-from-behind victory over Columbia on Saturday completed Yale’s sweep of the Lions. Guard Eric Flato ’08 scored a career-high 22 points, and Martin added 18 to lead the Bulldogs. The contest was the Elis’ last away game of the season, and the Bulldogs finished the road portion of their league season 2-5.
Flato, who shot just 1-for-8 from the floor Friday night, reversed his luck Saturday night, shooting more than 50 percent from the floor and sinking four three-point shots. He added two steals to the mix and went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line to round out what was arguably his best performance of the season.
The Elis got off to a slow start Saturday night, and had some difficulty dealing with the Lions’ 2-3 zone. But once the Bulldogs opened up the zone and started working the ball inside to Martin, they were able to pull away.
“We just struggled in the beginning, especially offensively,” captain Josh Greenberg ’06 said. “I think some of our bad offense led to their ability to score. We took some bad shots, and didn’t get the ball inside well.”
In addition to shooting better in the second half, the Bulldogs played better defense. Columbia shot 50 percent from the floor and 75 percent from behind the arc during the first stanza, but they went 0-for-11 from the three-point line and shot just 23 percent for the remainder of the game.
“We played better defense in the second half,” Jones said. “We really shut them down and they got no easy baskets. We made them work for everything they got.”