The Yale men’s basketball team proved Friday night that it could win a tough game even without playing its best.
Despite posting more turnovers than in any other game this month, the Bulldogs managed to defeat the Cornell Big Red.
The Bulldogs (19–7, 8–1 Ivy) controlled the game against Cornell (12–13, 4–5) in a disjointed affair at John J. Lee Amphitheater Friday night. The game featured 44 foul calls and 27 turnovers, as the Elis kept pace atop the Ivy League standings with a 62–51 win.
“It’s great to get a win when you don’t play your best,” head coach James Jones said. “We haven’t played that poorly offensively, shooting the ball, besides that half at Harvard, probably all season … You’re going to have some off nights shooting the basketball, but the guys bounced back really well and played through the adversity and did what was necessary.”
The first half got off to a quick start when Yale scored the first bucket of the game on the team’s opening possession. Cornell briefly led in the early going, with a 7–6 advantage at the 15:42 mark, but the Bulldogs went on a 10–2 run over the next five-minute stretch, giving the Elis the lead for good.
The lead grew to 11 for Yale with 5:42 remaining in the half, but the Big Red cut the lead back to single digits by halftime. Cornell trailed 25–18 at the intermission despite nine points from Shonn Miller.
Although the Elis shot 42.3 percent from the field compared to 26.9 percent from the Big Red, Cornell stayed in the game due to Yale’s 11 first-half turnovers. Neither team was particularly successful from behind the arc. Cornell shot 22.2 percent from long range and Yale made 30.0 percent of its attempts.
“It was actually kind of our plan to rat the game a little bit, make it a little sloppy, hoping to force those guys into turnovers,” Cornell head coach Bill Courtney said.
Out of the break, the Bulldogs stayed relentless, and the lead quickly swelled to double digits again. Cornell did not help its own cause when Miller fouled out with 6:24 remaining in the game.
The Big Red did not give Yale’s frontcourt much trouble, as the Bulldogs dominated the glass, characterized by one possession during which the Elis grabbed four offensive rebounds and chewed nearly a minute and 15 seconds off the clock before finally heading to the line for free throws.
“We really push ourselves in practice, chase after the ball, and it’s really just about effort, regardless of your size, just how much determination you have to get the ball,” guard Armani Cotton ’15 said. “We do a really good job of competing in practice, and I think it also helps that we have a lot of big guards on the floor from time to time. It’s the culture of our team at this point, regardless of what size we have.”
Still, the Big Red managed to stay within striking distance thanks to the efforts of guards Galal Cancer and Devin Cherry, who scored 19 and 17, respectively, to lead the field of scorers. Cornell, however, never got closer than the final score of 62–51, coming up short as the Bulldogs defense kept the Big Red to 32.0 percent shooting from the field on the night.
Two Elis finished the night with double-doubles. Forward Justin Sears ’16 put up 12 points and 12 rebounds and Cotton contributed 10 points and 11 rebounds. Both players each had six offensive rebounds for the Bulldogs, which keyed the Yale win.
On the glass, the Bulldogs posted more rebounds than the Big Red by a significant margin, 46–26. Yale also controlled the paint, outscoring Cornell 28–18 within the key, and the Elis totaled 14 assists compared to just five for their opponents.
“We did an excellent job on the glass,” Jones said. “We didn’t shoot the ball great tonight, especially from the arc, and the fact that we got multiple, multiple offensive rebounds on a couple occasions really were helpful [in giving the team extra possessions].”
Yale will look to carry the momentum of the victory into its next game against Columbia at 7 p.m. at John J. Lee Amphitheater.