One week removed from sealing its season sweep of Brown, the Yale men’s basketball team heads to New York for its second conference doubleheader of the season.
After defeating the Ivy League’s highest scoring team on back-to-back Fridays, the Bulldogs (11–6, 3–1 Ivy) turn toward Columbia (9–8, 3–1) and Cornell (6–13, 2–2). Each team boasts a dangerous scoring threat in Luke Petrasek for Columbia and Matt Morgan for Cornell. However, Yale head coach James Jones feels the toughest individual matchup is in the rearview mirror.
“[Steven] Spieth was a matchup advantage for Brown at the four,” Jones said. “I think we can guard these guys [Petrasek and Morgan] 1-on-1. Spieth had 55 [points] in two games against us and we still won. There’s not one player I worry about. It’s the whole team beating you.”
On Friday night, Yale will have to contend with Columbia’s Petrasek, who is fifth in the Ivy League points and rebounds per game with 15.2 and 6.6, respectively. In addition to Petrasek, who tallied 31 points earlier this season in a win over Cornell, Columbia also gets strong production from its backcourt: Guards Nate Hickman and Mike Smith combine for 25.9 points per game.
The Lions are currently tied with Yale and Harvard for second in the Ivy League standings after a narrow 65–62 victory over Harvard on Saturday. Though the Bulldogs have yet to test themselves against the Crimson, they share a common nonconference opponent with the Lions: Albany. Columbia fell to Albany on Dec. 30, a team Yale came from behind to beat on Dec. 3 thanks to a combined 30 points from guards Anthony Dallier ’17 and Alex Copeland ’19.
Dallier, the captain, dropped 30 points by himself on Friday — the most for any Yale player this season and the most since guard Makai Mason’s ’18 31-point performance in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year against Baylor.
In Mason’s absence, Dallier said he recognizes how crucial the younger players have been thus far.
“Miye [Oni] ’20 and the other freshmen are the difference in where we are right now,” Dallier said. “I would say that in situations where we’ve been down a little bit, I feel like all the younger guys but especially Miye have a second gear.”
Oni, who is second on the team in scoring and second in the entire Ivy League in rebounding, is just one of many breakout young players for this Bulldogs squad. Fellow first-year forward Jordan Bruner ’20 is averaging an incredible 2.6 blocks per game, top in the Ancient Eight.
From the guard position, Yale’s pair of sophomore guards — Copeland and Trey Phills ’19 — have been huge in helping the team overcome Mason’s loss. While he’s one of Yale’s strongest defenders, Phills flashed his offensive ability on Friday, scoring a career-high 16 points.
Copeland also leads the team in scoring with 13.1 per game despite occupying the sixth-man role for much of the season.
“When some of the guys who usually score a lot of numbers for us aren’t there, somebody has to get more aggressive coming off screens,” Phills said after his clutch performance Friday night.
Overall, Yale has the most efficient offense in the Ivy League, sporting the highest field goal percentage, most assists and most rebounds out of any team. The Elis are also second in overall points and three point percentage and fourth in turnovers.
Much of this efficiency can be credited to the play of the team’s big men, led by forward Sam Downey ’17. The Lake Forest, Illinois, native has been incredibly consistent this year, second on the team in both points and rebounds. Downey and fellow starting forward Blake Reynolds ’19 — who leads the team in steals — combine to average 11.6 boards per game.
Yale will seek to utilize this rebounding advantage in the second part of their double header this weekend as they take on Cornell. The Big Red have the Ivy League’s highest scoring player in guard Morgan, who averages 18.1 points per game. As a team, Cornell has allowed the second most points per game in the Ivy League, after Brown with 77.1.
While Brown compensated somewhat for its lenient overall defense by forcing a lot of turnovers, the most in the Ivy League, Cornell does not present the same challenge as they force the least mistakes by the opposing offenses. And while Brown has four players in the top 10 in the Ancient Eight in terms of steals per game, Cornell has none.
Yale last lost to Columbia two seasons ago, when the Lions handed the Bulldogs their most recent loss at John J. Lee Amphitheater, and has not fallen to Cornell since the 2013–14 season. Tip-offs for the weekend are in Manhattan at 7 p.m. on Friday and at 6 p.m. in Ithaca on Saturday.