MEN’S BASKETBALL: Yale fends off end of Brown’s run for 66-63 road win

Courtesy of Drew Dummer

PROVIDENCE — The final seconds dragged on in Yale’s men’s basketball team’s first close finish since November, but the Bulldogs held on to their lead to wrap up a three-point victory over Brown on Monday night.

Yale (8–8, 2–0 Ivy), who were up 14 midway through the second half, saw their lead evaporate almost late in the game as Brown’s striker (9–11 , 1–4) Tamenang Choh led the Bears on a 15–3 run that put his team within one with 46 seconds left. Yale led 64-61 entering the final 20 seconds, which featured seven substitutions, four free throws and three timeouts, including two consecutive timeouts each head coach called when Brown had a chance to tie the game with 19 seconds remaining. . The Bears were looking for freshman guard Kino Lilly Jr. to drill a three-pointer on an inbound play, but the shot was called off. Yale was then fouled in a chaotic race for the rebound and ’24 forward Matt Knowling hit one of his two free throws to extinguish any chance of Brown completing the return.

Closing out the 66-63 victory, the Bulldogs overcame a career-high 30 points from Brown star Choh and several missed free throws in the second half, helping them go undefeated in Ivy’s young season and win their first consecutive winning streak. against Division I opponents this season. 22 points from guard Azar Swain ’22, the Ivy League’s leading scorer, and another 15 from captain and guard Jalen Gabbidon ’22 paced the Elis.

“I just said guys, I can’t remember the last time we had to win a close game,” Yale head coach James Jones said outside the visitors’ locker room at the Pizzitola Sports Center before to return to New Haven.

Yale captain and guard Jalen Gabbidon ’22, who scored 15 points on Monday, shoots guard Brown Dan on Friday. (Courtesy of Drew Dummer)

Yale’s last game decided by three runs or less was on November 23, when the Elis fell to Southern Utah in overtime, 88–85.

On Monday, tension rose in the final minutes, as Rhode Island’s crowd of 525 — Brown continues to allow the general public to attend games wearing masks — began to consider an arrival from behind. Choh, who as a graduate student takes advantage of the Ivy League graduate eligibility exception for senior athletes who graduated at the end of a canceled competition year last spring, said electrified fans when he rebounded and dived his own missed free kick with two minutes to go, cutting Yale’s lead to 60–59. The Bulldogs were up 59-46 at the under-eight media timeout.

Fouled by Brown guard David Mitchell on Yale’s next possession, Swain sank two key free throws to keep the Elis ahead 62–59. A deep finish from forward EJ Jarvis ’23 provided a bit more breathing room with 32 seconds left, setting up the three-point attempt that Lilly Jr. missed coming out of back-to-back timeouts about ten seconds later. .

“We are working on [late-game] situations in practice,” Knowling said. “I think it’s just taking the practice rehearsals seriously, and that will translate into the game. The coach had a lot of faith in us to go and finish the game, and we went there and got the win. .

Guard Eze Dike ’22 finished with a plus-minus plus-six, second-best on the team behind guard Matthue Cotton ’23 and his plus-seven. (Courtesy of Drew Dummer)

Although he often found his way to the free-throw line, Yale shot just 12 of 23 from the boards in the second frame. The Bulldogs entered the bonus less than nine minutes into the second half and reached the double bonus with six minutes left, allowing them to shoot a pair of free throws on any common foul the rest Match.

But much to the delight of Brown fans, they didn’t convert the shots to their usual clip – in a heavily advertised promotion, Yale’s back-to-back misses at the line earned fans in attendance a free 24-ounce coffee drink from New England Aroma Joe’s.

“If we made a few free throws in the streak, which would have been key for us, instead of winning by threes, maybe you win by 10 or 12 because you’re making free throws,” Jones said.

Good starts in the first and second half ultimately made those misses pointless. To open the game, Yale took an early 7–2 lead and led 18–10 after a three-pointer from guard Matthue Cotton ’23 six minutes into the game.

“I think our guys came out with really good energy,” Jones said. “We’ve felt pretty good about ourselves over the last few days of training and what we’ve been doing, and the guys have had a load. And we start to look for each other more, to feel comfortable with each other and to believe in each other… It’s more the Yale basketball that I coached in the past.

From left, guards Bez Mbeng ’25, Matthue Cotton ’23 and Azar Swain ’22 in the first half. (Courtesy of Drew Dummer)

Going into the contest, Brown had made defense his main strength. The bears were two-point favorites in Las Vegas entering the game, leading the Ancient Eight in adjusted defensive effectiveness as well as blocks and points allowed per game. Their senior forward Jaylan Gainey also leads the conference in blocks per game; the tallest player on the field at 6-foot-9, Gainey had three shots in the first half and five on the night. He shared the 2020 Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year award with Gabbidon.

But Yale scored the ball effectively at the start of both halves. In the under-12 media timeout in the first, Yale was shooting fifty percent from the field and had three of five attempts from deep, including two from Swain.

“Hey, they’ve got 18 points in under seven minutes,” Brown head coach Mike Martin could be heard saying to the five Bears on the field at the start of the first half. “Under seven, white. 18 points,” Martin pointed out, referring to his team’s white jerseys.

A 7-0 run highlighted by a Gainey block and Choh three helped Brown regain the lead in the first, but a Swain hoop finish on Lilly Jr. put Yale ahead 35-32 at halftime. time. Brown scored more than 40% of his points in the first half – 13 of 32 – from the free throw line. Choh found nine of his 12 first-half points on the boards.

Yale head coach James Jones, left, and assistant coach Justin Simon ’04 walk to the locker room at halftime. (Courtesy of Drew Dummer)

For the third straight time this season, Jones pitched rookies Knowling and guard Bez Mbeng ’25 on Monday night. Both rewarded her decision on this first weekend of Ivy action. After contributing 17 points and 8 rebounds in Yale’s league opener win over Cornell on Saturday, Knowling grabbed a new career-high 10 rebounds at Brown. Cotton and guard Eze Dike ’22, who started for almost the entirety of Yale’s non-conference slate, were consistently productive on the bench, finishing with the team’s top two plus-minus.

Mbeng had the best game of his young college career against Brown, finishing 28 minutes of action with eight points, four rebounds and three steals, all career highs. Complimenting his defence, Jones said “today was a breakthrough game for Bez”.

Yale locked in to start the second, leaving Brown to score just 11 points in the first ten minutes of the half. Despite Choh’s success, Brown as a team only shot 36.4% from the field.

“I’m proud of my defense,” Mbeng told The News. “I just want to arrest the man in front of me, let everyone know, really just make a statement on defense.”

From left, Yale forward Yussif Basa-Ama ’24, Yale guard Azar Swain ’22 shooting Brown guard David Mitchell, and Yale guard Jalen Gabbidon ’22 driving over Brown forward Jaylan Gainey. (Courtesy of Drew Dummer)

Monday’s game was one of six Ancient Eight men’s and women’s basketball games that took place on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. After a local student from Moses Brown School played an interpret from the national anthem to the trumpet, the teams held a moment of silence in honor of Dr. King and bumped their fists on center court.

The league plans to make MLK Day games a feature of the conference’s new schedule format. Both teams wore the Ivy League “8 Against Hate” warm-up jerseys before the game.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to showcase Ivy League basketball on such a momentous day,” Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris said in a statement. published video on the league’s Twitter on Monday. “When we were developing our new basketball schedule, Ivy League athletic directors and coaches decided it was important to show the Ivy League’s commitment to diversity and how our values ​​align with those adopted by Martin Luther King.”

Yale visits Penn (6-12, 3-2) next Saturday.

Update, January 18: This story has been updated to include a full recap of Monday night’s game.


William McCormack covers Yale men’s basketball. He previously served as a sports and digital editor for the Yale Daily News and also reported on sports administration as a staff reporter. A native of Boston, he is a senior at Timothy Dwight College.

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