NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Bulldogs begin a very important four-game road stretch with a trip through New York State. Unlike most years, though, Yale will have a day in between games. The Bulldogs are at Cornell on Friday at 7 p.m. but won't play Columbia until Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. in a game that will be televised nationally on the NBC Sports Network.
Yale (13-9, 7-1 Ivy) enters the weekend in a first-place tie with Harvard. The Bulldogs have won six straight games, all in league play, which is their longest Ivy winning streak since the 2001-02 team won seven straight. In addition, the 7-1 Ivy start is the best since that 2001-02 team won nine of its first 10 league games.
During their six-game winning streak, the Bulldogs are holding their opponents to 37 percent shooting from the field and have a +11 rebounding margin. On the season, Yale is 12-1 when it outrebounds it opponents.
Justin Sears continued his stellar play last weekend, averaging 21 points and six rebounds as the Bulldogs swept the Penn-Princeton home weekend. Sears was named the Ivy League co-player of the week, the third straight week and fifth time this season he has been honored. The five selections are tied for second all-time for most players of the week in a season. Sears is fourth in the league in scoring (15.8 ppg.), third in rebounding (6.9 rpg.), second in blocked shots (2.0 per game) and steals (1.5 per game) and eighth in field goal percentage (.485).
Yale will be back on the road next weekend, traveling to Princeton and Penn. The Bulldogs then conclude the regular season by hosting Harvard on Mar. 7 and Dartmouth on Mar. 8.
3 KEYS FOR YALE
Continue To Defend –In 14 non-conference games, Yale allowed its opponents to shoot 45.8 percent from the field, including 43.2 percent from three-point range. Those numbers have improved dramatically in Ivy play when opponents are shooting just 39.6 percent from the field and 30.1 from beyond the arc.
Rebound – It's been a constant throughout the season. When the Bulldogs control the glass, they have generally been successful. Yale has a +9.6 rebounding margin in its 13 wins and a -4.6 margin in its nine losses. In the home weekend with Columbia and Cornell, the Bulldogs had a 74-49 rebounding edge.
Stay Composed – Tied atop the Ivy League standings, the Bulldogs have a bigger target on their backs as they head down the stretch. Cornell and Columbia both have passionate fan bases and will be looking to avenge earlier losses, so Yale can't get rattled when the going gets tough.
• Armani Cotton has posted a double-double in three straight games. During the stretch he is averaging 15.3 points and 10.7 rebounds. Cotton has scored in double figures in six of the eight Ivy games after doing it only four times in non-league play. The last Yale player with three straight double-doubles was Greg Mangano '12, who did it four times in a row in the 2011-12 season.
• Matt Townsend (12-of-24) and Brandon Sherrod (15-of-30) are both shooting 50 percent from the field during Yale's six-game winning streak.
• Although it hasn't always shown up in the final box score, the Bulldogs have been getting important contributions from the bench. In last Saturday's victory over Princeton, Isaiah Salafia played key minutes down the stretch of regulation and in overtime when Javier Duren left with an injury. In addition, Greg Kelley scored five points and Jesse Pritchard grabbed five rebounds and played solid defense in his 28 minutes.
Yale has won three of its last four games with Cornell, including a hard-fought 61-57 decision in New Haven back on Feb. 1. Javier Duren scored seven of his team-high 19 points in the final five minutes of the second half to lead the Bulldogs. Last year in Ithaca, Matt Townsend was 7-of-10 from the field and scored 19 points, while Brandon Sherrod added 13 points, nine rebounds and five blocks as Yale beat the Big Red 79-70. It was Yale's first win in Newman Arena since 2004.
The Bulldogs have won three of their last four games at Levien Gym, but the loss came last year, 59-46. The two teams have had some intense battles in New York in recent years. Two years ago, Yale trailed by 21 with 11:30 left in the second half before rallying for a 59-58 victory, and three years ago, the Bulldogs needed double overtime to knock off the Lions, 87-81. Yale won the first meeting between the teams this year, 69-59. Justin Sears scored 22 points to lead the Bulldogs.
Yale last swept the Cornell-Columbia road trip in 2003.
The Big Red (2-20, 1-7 Ivy) picked up its first Ivy League win last Friday, knocking off Dartmouth 70-67. Cornell's backcourt has been its strength, with its lead guards pacing the team in scoring. Sophomore guard Nolan Cressler has had an All-Ivy season for the Big Red, averaging 16.5 points and 4.5 rebounds, while junior Devin Cherry isn't far behind at 11.2 ppg., 4.3 rpg. and 3.2 apg. Cressler has averaged 19.8 ppg. over his last five games, while Cherry has hit for double figures in 11 of his last 13 contests. Cressler scored 29 points in the first meeting with the Bulldogs.
The Lions, who host Brown on Friday night, lead the Ivy League and are eighth in the nation in free throw percentage (76.3 percent). Columbia (15-10, 4-4 Ivy) is 10-2 at Levien Gym this season. The two losses have come by a combined five points – 71-70 to Manhattan and 88-84 in overtime to Harvard. Alex Rosenberg, who shared the Ivy League player of the week honor with Justin Sears, leads the team in scoring at 15.4 ppg. He has reached double figures in scoring in 20 straight games and scored 34 in the overtime loss to Harvard.