The men’s basketball team may be hosting Vermont tomorrow, but despite the home turf advantage, the Bulldogs will be in for a dogfight.
The Catamounts lost their top scorer, Evan Fjeld, who graduated last year, but they have returned four starters. Three of those players started in Vermont’s 82-78 victory over the Bulldogs in Burlington, Vt., last year. Chief among these veterans is point guard Brian Voelkel, who is averaging 5.7 assists per game.
The Bulldogs will need to find an acceptable counterpart to Voelkel. They are still attempting to fill the hole left when starting point guard Porter Braswell ’11 graduated last May.
“It’s just a tough role to fill,” captain Reggie Willhite ’12 said. “[Mike] Grace ’13 and Isaiah [Salafia] ’14 are both young in terms of court play in comparison to [Braswell]. As the season goes on I have full confidence that they’ll both get a lot better at handling the role.”
Yale’s point guards will have to work to get Greg Mangano ’12 the ball, as he has been consistently double-teamed all season. Forward Brandon Sherrod ’15 said that the team has been practicing passing out of double-teams to take advantage of their unguarded teammates.
In order to break the double team, other Bulldogs will have to step up offensively. Salafia stated that once teammates hit shots, shots will open up for Mangano. He added that this fits with the team’s unselfish mentality.
“[We] don’t care who scores,” Salafia said. “Reggie will have 20 points one game and the next he may score nine, but he’ll contribute seven rebounds and six assists. As long as we’re scoring, we don’t care who is taking the shots.”
The Elis will also have to stop a Catamounts attack that has been averaging 65.7 points per game. Sherrod said that Vermont runs a flex-style offense, so the Bulldogs will try to stop the Catamount post players from getting inside.
Willhite added that transition defense would also be a key factor to stop Vermont from getting easy baskets.
Although the Bulldogs have won four of their first six games, Willhite and Salafia said their best basketball is yet to come.
“We have only started to tap into our potential,” Salafia said. “Hopefully soon we will hit our stride [and] make a run at the Ivy League Championship.”
Tipoff will be Saturday, 2 p.m. at the Lee Amphitheater.