I’ve (pretty much unsuccessfully) tried to start the #RoadGamesAreHard hashtag this season, so I should have been less surprised than most to see Yale struggle to put away Sacred Heart Tuesday afternoon. They finally did 70-64 to go to 10-4 on the season, but it wasn’t pretty to watch, with 20 turnovers (in 64 possessions) and a spirited rally from an improved Pioneer team late.
And there’s the rub, I guess. Teams are GOING to look worse on the road than they do at home, and so – as Yale did – you hold your nose, close one eye, and be happy to get back on the bus (for a short ride home, in this case) with a victory, sometimes even stats be damned.
Meanwhile, as I said during the game, there’s no way Sacred Heart looks like a 2-14 NEC team (their record last season), even if it took a 5-for-6 (at one point 5-for-5) three-point shooting performance from Steve Glowiak off the bench to lead them back.
Here are my thoughts from the Pitt Center, where Yale’s Justin Sears scored his 1,000th career point, the first Yale junior to do that in 24 seasons:
1. Sometimes mistakes aren’t in scheme – Yale has a turnover problem, now 293rd nationally in turnover rate (22.0%) and dropping fast. After the Bulldogs took a 15-point lead midway through the second half, only some hot shooting (they finished 10-of-16 from behind the arc) allowed then to keep the lead. Many times, it just looked as if Yale just couldn’t complete a pass or catch the ball, Javier Duren being one of the few sure-handed Bulldogs, but then he made a couple of ill-advised passes that led directly to turnovers as well. Individually, Armani Cotton checks in at an unacceptable 30.4% rate, followed by Jack Montague (24.8), Sears (23.6), and Duren (22.0). It may be that reason why Nick Victor, who made his first appearance of the season after starting 30 games a year ago, may see more minutes sooner rather than later (of course, Victor’s turnover rate was 31.2% last year, too).
“We didn’t keep our composure,” Yale coach James Jones said. “We had uncharacteristic turnovers out of traps and we weren’t looking up the floor. I’ll take the hit on that. We haven’t been pressed all year and really haven’t practiced it much. We need to space the floor better.”
2. Sacred Heart may have a rebounding problem – As with many NEC teams, the stats at this point of the season are skewed by the teams they played. But the Pioneers’ second-leading defensive rebounder (behind Tevin Falzon) is Cane Broome at the moment. Jordan Allen did a nice job defensively on Justin Sears, but will have to improve on his 9.0% defensive rebounding rate. Broome struggled offensively (1-of-8 FG, 2 pts), but was picked up by Glowiak, Allen, and De’Von Barnett (15 pts), and that’s a very good sign for the Pioneers, who were in the game against one of the best the Ivy had to offer while not playing a perfect game.
“”I’m disappointed because this was a golden opportunity and we let it slip away,” Sacred Heart coach Anthony Latina told the Connecticut Post. “When you play a very good team like Yale, you can’t make as many mistakes as we made, and when you play a team like this and you make those mistakes, they make you pay.”
3. Offense is a good sign for Yale – The Bulldogs put up 40 points on 30 possessions in the second half (even with 10 turnovers), although it did take a 7-of-8 shooting performance from behind the arc. While they commit turnovers, they also cause plenty, which is some of the reason that they can be ranked 84th nationally in defensive efficiency even when they’re conceding 50.3% eFG (only 231st). Controlling the glass is the other, of course. They should be able to do all those things in Ivy play, too, but they’ll need to shake the turnover bug, the same one that Brown – who they’ll play in their first two Ivy games – has, the Bears are even worse at 334th (24.4%).