The men’s basketball team will have ample opportunity to make up for last Saturday’s disappointing loss to Brown with back-to-back away games at Harvard and Dartmouth this weekend.
After kicking off this year’s Ivy League campaign with an impressive 56-42 handling of Brown (6-11, 1-1 Ivy) two weeks ago, the Bulldogs (5-10, 1-1) were not able to pull off a repeat performance for their home crowd last weekend. As Yale faces two tough road games this week, it is important that the Elis get back on the right track before the all-important league season starts to slip away.
“It is critical to start gaining some momentum now,” forward Travis Pinick ’09 said. “We’re in a 14-game tournament, and every slip-up can cost you a shot at the title. We’ve got to take it game by game, not look ahead to anyone, and just keep concentrating on what we’re doing right now.”
Both Harvard (8-8, 1-1) and Dartmouth (6-9, 1-1) will be looking to establish their presence in the Ancient Eight and distance themselves from their peers, entering the week’s play with identical league records after splitting their first two games against each other.
Yale will begin this weekend’s festivities by traveling to Cambridge for a showdown with archrival Harvard, which returns to action after a 13-day layoff. The Crimson are coming off a hard-fought victory against Dartmouth, a game in which they got 20 points and a career-high 17 rebounds from their seven-foot senior center Brian Cusworth. Cusworth currently ranks second in the league, averaging 16.7 points each game, and leads the league in rebounding, pulling in 9.2 boards per contest.
“We’re going to have to help down and double team the big man,” guard Eric Flato ’08 said. “He’s a good player. We’re going to have to make sure we’re rotating well out of our traps and get to the shooters.”
Yale will also have watch out for senior guard Jim Goffredo, who, feeding off the double-teams drawn by Cusworth, pours in almost 16 points a game himself, with five games over the 20-point mark this season.
The potent Crimson offense lures many teams into foul trouble. The Crimson average over 26 free throws a game, almost twice as many as their opponents.
History seems to favor Yale in this hallowed matchup, especially under the leadership of head coach James Jones. The Elis lead the all-time series 107-65, and Jones has an 11-3 record against the Crimson since he took the reins in 2000. Before the Jones era, the Bulldogs had dropped seven of the last eight contests dating back to 1995. But the Crimson sidelines boast the winningest coach in school history, Frank Sullivan, who is in his 16th year at Harvard, making him the longest tenured coach in the Ivy League.
“We haven’t given any additional emphasis on this game, but every time Yale and Harvard do anything, there’s going to be something more than just another game,” Jones said. “You’re always going to have that little something extra.”
Next, the Elis travel to New Hampshire to take on Dartmouth, a team picked to finish dead last in the league in preseason polls. The Bulldogs have won eight of the last 10 meetings between the schools, and this game serves to break the 94-94 tie in the all-time series.
But Yale must not enter this important road game overconfident, as the Big Green have a number of offensive weapons, including senior guard Leon Pattman, who was named Ivy League Player of the Week for his 27-point effort against Harvard two weeks ago. Sharpshooting Pattman is averaging 17.8 points per game and drills an impressive 86.7 percent from the penalty stripe and over 50 percent from behind the three-point arc.
Yale looks to come home with a couple victories this weekend to build some momentum for next week, when the Bulldogs face off against arguably the two best teams in the league: Princeton and Penn.
“Two wins this weekend would be huge for us going into that Penn-Princeton weekend,” Flato said. “It could determine the rest of the season.”