Courtesy of David Schamis

Yale’s high-gear Ivy League campaign hit a speedbump with Saturday’s loss to Princeton, snapping a 10-game winning streak and falling one win short of a new school record

With the number one seed back up for grabs this Friday against Cornell (19–4, 8–1 Ivy), the Bulldogs (17–7, 8–1 Ivy) must hit the accelerator once more. 

“We still have an opportunity to win a championship, we still have an opportunity to get the number one seed,” head coach James Jones told the News after the loss. “We were gonna have to win the rest of our games anyways, so let’s go out and do that now.”

With five games remaining in conference play, Yale and Cornell sit atop the Ivy League standings at 8–1 each, while Princeton (19–4, 7–2 Ivy) is one game back. If the Elis defeat the Big Red on Friday, they’ll have total control over first place and be in prime position to land the first seed at the four-team Ivy tournament in March.

The number one seed is especially desirable in this season’s Ivy League landscape, where three teams — Yale, Cornell and Princeton — rank far above the remaining five. As the first seed, the Bulldogs would likely face either Harvard (13–9, 4–5 Ivy) or Columbia (13–9, 4–5 Ivy) in the tournament’s first round, where they would be heavy favorites. The matchup between the two and three seeds would be Cornell vs Princeton, which would be a far more contested affair. 

Yale, Cornell and Princeton have all only lost to each other so far this season, and are a combined 19–0 against the other five teams.

The Bulldogs beat Cornell on a last-second basket two weeks ago at home, in a game they trailed for over 30 minutes of play. In order to avoid a similarly close game in Ithaca on Friday, they’ll have to do a better job of adapting to the Big Red’s rapid pace of play. 

Cornell’s offense is the fifth fastest offense in the country, playing at a rate of just 14.9 seconds per possession. They also score at a high volume on shots inside two-point range. The team’s 2-point percentage of 63.6 percent ranks first in the country.

There’s no simple way to stop the Big Red, who compromise intensity on defense for speed on offense and whose play often resembles a track meet more than a basketball game. Forcing Cornell to play at Yale’s pace in their home gym will be easier said than done.

What should be easy are the fundamentals. Reducing turnovers should be a key for Yale on Friday, who, despite having the lowest turnover percentage in the conference, coughed the ball up 13 times against Cornell on Feb. 10. In last year’s regular season loss to the Big Red, Yale turned the ball over 16 times. 

The Bulldogs must keep their composure against the Cornell press on Friday night. The steady presence of forward Matt Knowling ’24, who’s missed the last two games due to injury, would be a big addition.

Sharpshooting duo August Mahoney ’24 and John Poulakidas ’25 will also need to take on a larger role in Friday night’s matchup. The two struggled to find quality looks from behind the arc in the two teams’ last matchup, with Yale shooting 3-14 from three-point range.

In last year’s Ivy Tournament against Cornell, though, Poulakidas’s 25-point effort on 6-7 from beyond the arc was a key factor in Yale’s victory. A more efficient night from three-point range will be key to the Elis’ ability to match the Cornell offense.

Yale will also rely heavily on star forward Danny Wolf ’26 to have a comeback game. The 7-footer struggled mightily against Princeton last week, going scoreless on 0-8 shooting from the field. 

The Bulldogs’ ability to limit turnovers, find space on the perimeter, and get Wolf going offensively will go a long way toward making the six-hour journey to Ithaca a success. 

Friday night’s game will tip off at 7:00 p.m. in Cornell’s Newman Arena.

Ben Raab covers faculty and academics at Yale and writes about the Yale men's basketball team. Originally from New York City, Ben is a sophomore in Pierson college pursuing a double major in history and political science.