The men’s basketball team will appear on an ESPN network for the third time in the program’s history tonight when the Bulldogs head to New Jersey to take on second-place Princeton (15–6, 6–1). That matchup will be followed by a Saturday night trip to Philadelphia for a date with Penn, which, despite its 4–17 overall record, is just a game behind the Bulldogs (10–15 4–4) at fourth in the Ivy League standings.
This weekend marks the start of the second half of the Elis’ Ivy League schedule this season. Yale went .500 in its first go-round, splitting each of its first four Ivy League weekends. The New Haven edition of the Princeton-Penn weekend saw the Bulldogs beat Penn 61–48 in New Haven Jan. 29 and drop a 58–45 decision to Princeton the next day.
Since then, the Elis have gone 2–2, winning games against Dartmouth and Columbia and suffering losses to first-place Cornell and Harvard. Last weekend saw some new faces step up for the Bulldogs, who received a career-best 19 points from Greg Mangano ’12 in Yale’s heartbreaking overtime loss to the Crimson, and several key plays from Raffi Mantilla ’11 in their second-half comeback against the Big Green. Alex Zampier ’10, who fell out of the Ivy League’s scoring lead after two less-than-stellar performances against Columbia and Cornell, regained the league lead with a 32-point effort against Harvard that pushed his average back up to 17.8 points per game.
The Tigers come in to Friday’s contest fresh off a 58–51 victory over the streaking Quakers Tuesday night. The Tigers’ 6–1 conference record is good for second, half a game behind Cornell. Princeton has the top scoring defense in the nation, holding opponents to just 52.3 points per game and 39.3 percent shooting. On the offensive side, they are led by Douglas Davis (13.3 ppg), who helped Princeton’s offense shoot a devastating 54 percent from the field against Yale earlier this season.
Despite their record, the Quakers will present the Bulldogs with a tough challenge. This is not the same Penn team the Elis dominated two weekends ago, as leading scorer Zack Rosen has helped the Quakers to three Ivy League wins — and pushed Princeton within 10 points of another one — since that matchup, proving that their 39.7 percent shooting effort against Yale in the teams’ last meeting was an aberration. Penn was just 1–18 from behind the arc in the first meeting Jan. 29.
The key for Yale this weekend will be, as it has all season, play in the paint. The Bulldogs are 0–8 this season when they are outrebounded and 10–7 when they hold the advantage on the glass. Getting the post men in on the scoring will also be a crucial part of a successful Eli offensive attack.
“We need to get our big guys a lot more touches,” head coach James Jones said following last weekend’s loss to Harvard. “We’re at our best when the ball goes inside.”
If the Bulldogs can control the paint and earn a sweep this weekend, it would be the Yale has swept the Princeton-Penn road weekend since the 1986-’87 season. A win against Penn would give the Bulldogs a sweep of the season series with the Quakers for the first time since 1966-’67.
The Elis and Tigers tip off their second meeting of the season tonight at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.