M. b'ball seeks first Ivy win

by Austin Zalkin | 1/11/01 6:00am

Dartmouth men's basketball enters the first full weekend of Ivy League play needing wins tomorrow against Brown and Saturday versus Yale. After home and away losses to Harvard by a combined total of five points, the Big Green (2-9 overall, 0-2 Ivy) must pull out both home games to position themselves for a finish in the top half of the League and an outside shot at the Ivy title.

"It's always a goal to be in the top three of the Ivy League and the alternate goal is to go to the NCAA tournament," said point guard Flinder Boyd '02. "Right now I think it's still possible to make the tournament, but more importantly to finish very strong, to finish in the top three in the Ivy League, to play the way we're capable of playing."

The Bears (5-6) and Bulldogs (3-9), who open their Ivy League seasons this weekend, enter with similar hopes and a cleaner slate.

The Bears have won four of their last six games, including their last two against Maine and Lehigh. Brown also played national powerhouse University of Connecticut to within 10 points, 88-78, in a Nov. 28 defeat.

"They're coming on," said Dartmouth Head Coach Dave Faucher. And "they have two dominant players."

Sophomore guard/forward Earl Hunt, who led the Ivies in scoring last season with 18.8 points per game, once again tops the League with a 21.4 average through 11 games this year. Hunt ranks third in the Ivies in three-point shooting percentage, hitting a lofty 45.8 percent of his treys.

"He may well be the best offensive player in the League," Faucher said.

Fellow sophomore forward Alai Nuualiitia ranks fourth in the League with 7.5 rebounds per game and is 10th in the Ivies with 11.9 points per contest. His 53.3 percent shooting also places him among the Ivy leaders.

"We will key on them," Faucher said of Brown's dynamic duo. "We can't let them have real big numbers."

The Yale Bulldogs have begun the season slowly out of conference with nine losses in 12 contests, but five of those defeats have been by eight points or less.

The Bulldogs were hit hard in the offseason when their best player, sophomore shooting guard Onaje Woodbine, quit the team for personal reasons. But its other core members, sophomore point guard Chris Leanza and senior center Neil Yanke, have played strongly in this season's early going.

Leanza stands fifth in Ivy scoring at 15.5 points per game and is third in Ivy free throw shooting, hitting 86.4 percent of his shots from the charity stripe. Yanke is 11th in Ivy scoring with 11.4 points and 10th in rebounding with 6.3 boards per game. He also averages one blocked shot per game.

"Leanza has been tremendous in the early going," Faucher said. Yanke is "a big kid and he's given teams problems in the past."

Yale is still searching to fill the remainder of its positions, having started six players at various times alongside Leanza and Yanke. But the Bulldogs, who won their first three Ivy contests last season, including a 71-69 double-overtime win over Dartmouth in New Haven, remain a threat.

"They're a lot bigger than us, so we're going to have to utilize our quickness and our ability to hit the jumper to beat them," Boyd said.