The men’s basketball team’s messy play this weekend gave its opponents plenty to sweep up.
Yale (7-11, 1-3 Ivy) dropped a pair of home games to Columbia (8-11, 1-3) and Cornell (12-5, 4-0) for their second and third consecutive league losses. It was the Bulldogs’ first time being swept by those teams since head coach James Jones’ first season leading the Elis in 1999-’00.
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The first six minutes against the Lions set the pace for the Bulldogs’ head-on collision of a weekend. The visitors jumped to a 6-0 lead early, then pushed ahead 14-7 with center Ben Nwachukwu accounting for nine of the 14 points. The early deficit led to a frustrated home team that was never able to hold off the Columbia offense.
“We didn’t execute very well offensively. We really wanted to get off to a good start,” guard Caleb Holmes ’08 said. “We didn’t get that done either and I think that’s what we have to do in the next few games.”
The second half did the Bulldogs in as they allowed the Lions 20 free-throw attempts and failed to hold back the visitors’ 42-point period to end the game 71-58. Columbia dominated the boards, too, and grabbed 31 rebounds to the Elis’ paltry 19.
But the real problem with the Bulldogs’ play was their lack of presence in the paint. The Lions’ starting forwards and center all racked up at least 10 points while most of the Elis’ points came from Holmes and forward Travis Pinick ’09.
“I thought that we dribbled and tried to get the shots too often last night,” Jones said after Saturday’s game.
Captain and guard Eric Flato ’08 had his worst weekend of the year with just eight points and three rebounds combined across both games. Flato did not sink a single field goal in only 11 total attempts. The usually unwavering guard hardly made a mark while Alex Zampier ’10 came off the bench to rack up 20 points this weekend.
Zampier’s fellow standout in the contest against Cornell, forward Ross Morin ’09, made up the bulk of the Bulldogs’ showing under the hoop with 10 points.
But it was the following night when the Elis truly hit the wall.
The Big Red made their long drive from Ithaca, N.Y., worth it as they steamrolled the Elis, 66-45.
“Before the game we talked about not letting Columbia beat us twice,” Jones said. “We may have had a hangover from the night before.”
But Holmes added, “I think everybody knew we needed to beat Cornell because they’re the team to beat.”
The Bulldogs fell behind early for the second night in a row, dropping into a 10-0 hole in just three minutes. The first period was demoralizing at best, and Cornell managed to shoot 56 percent on the half.
Cornell sophomore standout Ryan Wittman recorded 11 points in the stanza by sinking two shots from beyond the arc and finding the basket another two times. Fellow forward Jason Hartford must have felt at home so close to Hartford, Conn., and matched Wittman’s effort with 11 points of his own.
“You try to scheme stuff toward what the other team does well,” Cornell head coach Steve Donahue said. “We needed to share the ball and we did a great job of that tonight.”
The Elis’ defense kicked it into gear after the break and held the Big Red to just 34.6 percent from the field. But the offense never found its stride, and Morin’s double-double was no rival for Cornell’s shooters.
Once the Big Red took a 21-point lead midway through the second half, the Elis stood little chance of surviving the crash. The match ended with the home-team’s weekend bursting into flames and with a heap of twisted metal for the Elis to climb out of before they can catch Cornell in the Ivy race.