Showdown With Harvard Highlights Senior Weekend

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Jesse Pritchard (photo by Don Clark, Yale Sports Publicity)

Bulldogs Enter Final Weekend Two Games Behind Crimson

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. – It's the final weekend of the regular season and Yale remains alive in the race for the Ivy League title. The Bulldogs host first-place Harvard on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in a game that will be televised nationally on the NBC Sports Network. Yale then has a Saturday night date with Dartmouth on Senior Night. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m.  Jesse Pritchard, Jeremiah Kreisberg and Isaiah Salafia, Yale's three seniors, will be honored prior to the tip.

The Bulldogs (15-11, 9-3 Ivy) are two games behind Harvard. Yale needs to sweep the weekend and have Harvard lose at Brown on Saturday to earn a share of the Ivy title. Yale and Harvard would then meet the following week at the Palestra in Philadelphia to determine the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Yale's last Ivy championship came in 2001-02 (three-way tie between Yale, Princeton and Penn). The Bulldogs haven't been to the NCAA Tournament since 1961-62.

It could also be a milestone weekend for James Jones, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Men's Basketball at Yale, who enters the weekend with 205 victories, all during his time at Yale. Jones is one win away from tying Joe Vancisin as the school's all-time winningest men's basketball coach. Vancisin guided the Bulldogs to 206 wins from 1956 to 1975.

Sophomore Justin Sears has played a key role Jones' 15 wins this season. Sears, an Ivy League Player of the Year candidate, is among the league leaders in several categories, including scoring (3rd, 16.3 ppg.), rebounding (3rd, 6.8 rpg.), field goal percentage (7th, .495), steals (6th, 1.3 per game) and blocked shots (2nd, 1.9 per game). He has been named the Ivy League Player of the Week five times which is tied for second all-time for most player of the weeks in a season.

3 KEYS FOR YALE

Start Strong –Quick starts in both games should only energize what should already be an amped up John J. Lee Amphitheater.

Finish Strong  – Regardless of what happens on Friday, it's important for the Bulldogs to end the regular season on a high note if for no other reason than to send the three seniors out on a winning note.

Rebound – The Bulldogs controlled the glass (+11.0 rebounding margin) in sweeping Dartmouth and Harvard on the road last month. They will need a similar effort to do it again.

WHO'S HOT

• After missing the Cornell-Columbia weekend with an ankle injury, Javier Duren returned and made a big impact on the two games last weekend. Against Princeton, he had 13 points, four assists and three steals, and in the win at Penn, he scored 14 points, including going 9-of-9 from the free throw line, and added six assists and two steals in 34 minutes.

Nick Victor had a solid all-around game last Saturday against Penn, scoring six points, grabbing five rebounds, handing out three assists and adding three steals in 34 minutes.

HISTORY LESSONS

Yale and Harvard have played some memorable games at the John J. Lee Amphitheater in recent years. In 2010, the Crimson escaped with an 82-79 victory in overtime. Harvard's Oliver McNally made 1-of-2 free throws with two seconds left to force the extra period. A year later, the Bulldogs exacted some revenge when Jeremiah Kreisberg's layup with 41 seconds left turned out be the winning basket in a 70-69 Yale victory that knocked Harvard out of first place. The teams went toe-to-toe again last year with the Crimson escaping with a 72-66 win. The score was tied at 56 with eight minutes remaining. Yale leads the all-time series 116-73, including a victory in the first meeting last month in Boston. The 116 wins are the most for Yale against any opponent. The Bulldogs have a chance to sweep the season series from the Crimson for the first time since 2008.

The Bulldogs have won 14 straight games over Dartmouth in Lee Amphitheater. Dartmouth's last win in the building was an 80-65 decision in 1999. Yale is looking to sweep the Big Green for the fourth time in the last five years. Brandon Sherrod scored 15 points to lead a balanced Bulldogs attack in a 67-54 victory in Hanover, N.H., last month. Yale leads the all-time series 108-95.

SCOUTING HARVARD

The Crimson (24-4, 11-1 Ivy) has already clinched at least a share of the Ivy League title. It is the fourth straight year Harvard has won at least a share of the Ivy crown. The Crimson's 24 wins are the second most in program history, trailing only the 26 victories posted by the 2011-12 squad. Harvard has six players averaging at least 9.4 points, led by Wesley Saunders at 14.0 ppg. Siyani Chambers, who averages 11.0 points and has a team-best 129 assists, is a 2014 Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year Award Watch List Finalist. 

SCOUTING DARTMOUTH

The Big Green (10-16, 3-9 Ivy) plays at Brown on Friday. Alex Mitola (11.0 ppg) and Connor Boehm (10.6 ppg.) lead Dartmouth in scoring. Mitola has a team-best 58 three-pointers. The Big Green is coming off an 87-78 victory over Cornell last Saturday. Mitola scored a career-high 33 points to lead the way. Dartmouth will almost undoubtedly end up with more rebounds than its opponents this year. It has been 27 years since the Big Green finished a season with a positive rebound margin.

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity

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