After prevailing over Princeton in overtime last weekend, the Yale men’s basketball team will travel to New York for a pair of games against Cornell and Columbia. As they approach the end of the Ivy season, the Bulldogs are playing their best basketball, but a dangerous stretch of games now lies ahead.
With its new status as one of the premier teams in Ivy League basketball, Yale figures to face even tougher competition from here on out. Though the Elis (13–9, 7–1 Ivy) are tied with Harvard for first place in the conference, they dealt the Crimson a loss in their visit to Cambridge two weeks ago. No other Ivy team has beaten Harvard, either at home or away, so far this season. The game against Princeton last week could be indicative of the kind of competition the Bulldogs will face moving forward.
“Now that we are one of two teams with only one loss, there is a target on us,” said center Jeremiah Kreisberg ’14. “Each team we play from now on has a chip on their shoulder because they probably felt they underperformed against us the first go around.”
The Elis will face this challenge when they take on the Big Red tonight. Cornell (2–20, 1–7) is in the midst of a rebuilding season, having graduated four of its five starters a year ago. The Big Red have struggled in Ivy League play almost as much as they have against nonconference foes. Nevertheless, Cornell has shown an ability to stay in games, as seen in its first visit to New Haven.
Last time around, Cornell out-scored the Elis in the second half, with guard Nolan Cressler scoring his season-high of 29 points. The Bulldogs came out on top, but only by four points. Forward Matt Townsend ’15, who hit several key shots late in the game, noted the Elis’ rededication to defense since their last matchup with Cornell.
“I think the past couple of days we’ve re-found our identity as a defensive-stopping team,” Townsend said. “We’ve been working a lot on containing guards and I’m confident we’ll do a good job of that on Friday.”
The Bulldogs will get an extra day of rest before tipping off against Columbia (15–10, 4–4) on Sunday in front of NBC Sports Network cameras. Yale’s 10-point victory over Columbia back on Jan. 31 is what sparked the Elis’ current six game winning streak. The squad figures to face a Columbia team determined to even the series.
Despite Columbia’s .500 record in Ivy competition, the Lions have shown they can rally for big games. On Feb. 14, they pushed Harvard to double overtime before succumbing to a four-point loss. Kresiberg noted Columbia’s strong performances against Michigan State and Princeton as reasons the Elis will be sure not to overlook the Lions just because of their record.
“[Columbia] definitely did not give us their best showing a couple of weeks ago,” Kreisberg said. “We never underestimate our opponents and understand that Columbia can play very well.”
Despite the danger inherent in being the top team, the Elis are undeterred from their goal: to improve in every game.
Townsend noted that the Bulldogs have already improved since the start of the season.
“In the beginning of the Ivy League season we definitely hadn’t found our identity yet,” Townsend said. “I expect us to get even better. Hopefully by our last game, we’re at our best.”
The Elis tip off against Cornell at 7 p.m. on Friday.