The No. 2-seeded Bulldogs (20–7, 10–4 Ivy) enter the Ivy League tournament, hosted for the first time ever at John J. Lee Amphitheater, coming off a victory over No. 3 Princeton (16–11, 8–6) last weekend to split the regular-season title with No. 1 Harvard. After two convincing wins against the Tigers during conference play, the Elis will look to stick to their winning formula come game time this weekend as they battle for a chance to represent the Ancient Eight in March Madness.
Start off strong
Playing from behind is a difficult task for any team. On Saturday, the Bulldogs — who are 16–1 this season when leading at the half — will look to jump out to an early lead. Yale possesses a size-advantage over Princeton and could feed the ball early to forwards Jordan Bruner ’20 or captain Blake Reynolds ’19, which would set up opportunities on the perimeter for sharpshooters like Azar Swain ’21 after the defense tightens up under the basket. Allowing the Ivy League Player of the Year, guard Miye Oni ’20, to find his shot in the first half would be advantageous for the Bulldogs, as his unparalleled offensive talent can carry the squad the rest of the way if he starts the contest hot. Most importantly, an early lead would suffice as a cushion for when an inevitable Tiger run emerges and poses a threat to the Elis’ control on the game.
Encompassing one of the three pillars of head coach James Jones’ basketball mantra –– rebounding –– the Elis emerged as one of the nation’s top defensive rebounding teams after collecting, on average, 30.4 boards per game. However, Princeton comes into Ivy Madness boasting the league’s best offensive rebounding team, grabbing 9.8 per contest. Six-foot-nine standout center Richmond Aririguzoh, whose stats have skyrocketed during his junior campaign, leads the league in personal offensive rebounds with 2.8 per game. The Bulldogs have won 19 of the 20 contests in which they have outrebounded their opponent. When failing to edge out their opponents on the boards, Yale is a paltry 1–5, emphasizing the importance of cleaning the glass and preventing Princeton from earning any second-chance opportunities.
Own the fast break
Yale has been dangerous on the fastbreak this season, in no small part because of its prowess on the defensive glass. When a board is snagged, the Bulldogs use their athletic advantage to get out and run, looking for easy baskets on the other end. The Elis have sliced-up Ancient Eight transition defenses when the ball falls to Oni, whose speed and playmaking ability allow him to finish breaks with his patented eurostep, a ferocious jam or an alley-oop pass to one of the forwards. Using transition buckets to wear down and demoralize defenses could prove to assist Yale in compiling a lead or reigniting a stagnant offense.
Cristofer Zillo | email@example.com