MEN’S BASKETBALL: “We don’t play as well as the sum of our games:” Monmouth sends Yale on final break with a 69-60 loss
The Bulldogs outscored the Hawks in the second half as Azar Swain ’22 broke the program’s career three-point record, but a first-half hole and unusual rebound deficit kept Yale from taking the lead on Tuesday evening.
William McCormack, Contributing Photographer
After the Yale men’s basketball team wrapped up their Tuesday night game against Monmouth in a 69-60 loss, head coach James Jones and senior goaltenders Azar Swain ’22 and Eze Dike ’22 have all shared versions of the same point of view: The Bulldogs have yet to play to their full potential in the first 13 games of the season.
Yale (6-7, 0-0 Ivy), down 41-25 at halftime, jumped up with a strong second half, but Monmouth (9-2, 2-0 MAAC) kept up a slim advance in the final five minutes to register their ninth victory in 10 games.
Tuesday’s loss came at the hands of a quality Monmouth side who came into the game with the realest road wins of all Division I men’s basketball, including wins over the big schools Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. But Yale’s 6-7 record doesn’t offer that level of nuance; the Elis are under .500 for the first time this season as they enter an eight-day hiatus from competition for final exams.
âI’m trying not to let the record indicate where we’re at,â Swain said while reflecting on Yale’s no-conference slate so far. âWe haven’t played our best basketball yet. I think a lot of guys feel the same way personally.
While not as ruthlessly effective as he was in Yale’s Sunday night loss to Iona at Barclays Center, Swain scored 17 points on Tuesday, leading his team into the box for the 10th time this season.
11 of those points fell in the second half, including a long three-point point that officially made Swain the school leader with 230 career three-point conversions. He tied Ed Petersen’s previous 1992 record of 229 on Sunday before officially breaking it on Tuesday.
Swain’s big shot with 10:12 left also reduced Monmouth’s lead, which had dropped to 20 at the start of the second half, to 10. It followed an 8-0 run at Yale which ignited the local crowd. A one-on-one from ’24 forward Matt Knowling on the Bulldogs’ next possession saw Jones pump his arm near the scoring table.
Although the Bulldogs managed to reduce the lead to 53-50 a few minutes later, the Hawks held on until the final buzzer. Monmouth forward Walker Miller, goaltender Shavar Reynolds and forward Nikkei Rutty combined to score 43 of the Hawks’ 69 points. Miller and Reynolds are transfers from North Carolina and Seton Hall graduates, respectively. Their presence helps explain why the Hawks are one of the most experienced teams in college basketball.
At the end of the Finals, Yale welcomes Howard on December 23 and visits Saint Mary’s College of California on December 28 before launching into the Ivy League game against Columbia on January 2. While he doesn’t have to go into exam mode like his players do, Jones has had his own chance to reflect on Yale’s season so far after the game.
âI think we’re better than what we’ve been able to produce so far,â Jones said. âI spoke to the team today about a few what ifs. What if we had done things a little differently in the first half and you weren’t at 16? Maybe you lose six points and now have a chance to win maybe 10 points in the second half because you played so well. We have some work to do. I think we have enough talent in our locker room to be successful, and it really depends on what we’re going to do in our conference.
This winter marks Yale’s first appearance in the fall semester exams with a record loss since December 2017, but some of Yale’s struggles are due to the quality of its opponents. Two of them are classified in the last AP Top 25 Poll: # 13 Auburn and # 16 Seton Hall. The Bulldogs also avoided âbadâ losses. According to the NCAA NET rankings, Yale has lost only part of Quadrant 4 this season at home against Stony Brook, the pre-season favorite in Eastern America. The ranking system defines Quadrant 4 matches as home competitions against opponents rated below 161 in the NET, neutral site matches with teams rated below 201, or away matches against teams. rated 241 or less.
Following his victory, Monmouth, who climbed more than 100 places in the 2022 Pomeroy College basketball rankings (KenPom) since opening the season, ranked 46th out of more than 350 NCAA Division I men’s basketball teams in the NET. Yale opened the night by struggling to shoot against the soaring Hawks. The Bulldogs were three of 15 in a three-point range and 33 percent from the field in the first.
The Elis have made slower performances in the first half a trend this season, especially at home, before finding their rhythm in the second. Dike, who often sets the team on the move or other games as a team point guard, said the team is always trying to find their rhythm offensively, especially as the offense incorporates a few players who have seen their playing time increase significantly since the start of the pandemic. and last winter’s season was canceled.
âWe’re trying to find our rhythm offensively,â said Dike. âWe’re not playing as well as the sum of our games right now. Once we really get into that rhythm, we really start to know each other offensively and defensively, and we really start to be successful. “
On the defensive end Tuesday, Jones put the Bulldogs into a two-three zone just over nine minutes into the game and chased it through much of the first half. Keeping a close eye on the Hawks’ three-point threat, Elis on the perimeter continued to point out Monmouth goalie and top scorer George Papas, who came in on the nation’s 15th night in three-point field attempts.
The plan was largely effective – Monmouth shot 13 of 28 from the field and four of 12 from beyond the arc in the first half, while Papas finished the night three of 13 deep. Yale, back in the man-on-man game, went on to deliver one of their best defensive halves of the season after halftime, limiting Monmouth to 20% shots from the field. The Hawks, however, grabbed 14 offensive rebounds on Tuesday night and passed the Bulldogs 43-27, scoring second chance runs that negated some of Yale’s defensive work on every possession.
Yale entered the game injury-free, 6-foot-8 forward Jack Molloy ’25 and EJ Jarvis ’23, averaging 21.2 minutes per game this season at the post.
âWe lose two forwards tonight which makes a difference in a game when you get passed by  and not getting offensive rebounds for the most part, âJones said. âBut don’t look for excuses. He’s the next man in place, and that’s always been our mindset in terms of who we are and who our agenda is, and we just haven’t done a good job with that tonight.
Jones has said he expects Jarvis to return “at some point”, while Molloy will be back after recovering from an ankle injury he sustained against Iona on Sunday.
Monmouth scored 29 points on the free throw line on Tuesday night, the most points a Yale opponent has converted on the charity strip since Siena fell to the Bulldogs in triple overtime in November 2019.