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Second-Half Comeback Lifts Yale Past Brown 68-64 In Ivy Opener

Reggie Willhite. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Reggie Willhite. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Willhite's Late Defense Sparks Bulldogs To Big Win

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Reggie Willhite's contributions to the Yale men's basketball team often go unnoticed by the casual observer. That certainly wasn't the case Saturday against Brown. Willhite took center stage in the final minutes, and his play at both ends of the floor went a long way in lifting the Bulldogs to a thrilling 68-64 victory over the Bears in the Ivy League opener for both teams.

First, Willhite picked the pocket of Brown's Sean McGonagill and went in for an uncontested dunk to pull Yale within 61-60 with 1:36 left. On the Bears' next possession, Willhite stole the ball from McGonagill again. Twenty seconds later, Willhite's jumper from the top of the key gave the Bulldogs the lead for good.

Austin Morgan hit four free throws, and Michael Grace made a pair in the final 31 seconds to seal the victory for Yale (11-4, 1-0 Ivy).

The turnovers were about the only mistakes McGonagill made. He scored a game-high 23 points and played all 40 minutes. His last basket, though, came with 4:15 left, before James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach at Yale, made the decision to put Willhite, the Bulldogs' best defender, on him.

"I went for it, and fortunately it worked out," Willhite said of his two steals. "It was a hectic game, very emotional, but it's a big win for us."

Willhite finished with 12 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. Morgan paced the Bulldogs with 18 points. Greg Mangano scored 15 points and added three blocks.

Matt Sullivan scored 16 points, and Stephen Albrecht added 12 for the Bears.

It was an uphill struggle for much of the game for the Bulldogs, who extended their winning streak to three. Yale trailed by as many as 11 in the first half and was still down six with three minutes remaining in the second half.

Willhite's jumper gave the Bulldogs their first lead in the game since the early minutes of the first half.

"Every time we made a run, it seemed like Brown had an answer," Jones said. "We did a great job of keeping our composure."

Brown (5-12, 0-1 Ivy) made nine three-pointers and shot 56.5 percent from the field in the first half in building a 38-31 lead.

The Bears, though, have been ravaged by injury and illness this season, and their lack of depth may have come in to play late in the game. Brown got only three points from its bench and four of the five starters played at least 32 minutes.

The Bears were just 10-of-25 from the field in the final 20 minutes.

"Our defense picked up in the second half," Jones said. "We have to do a better job throughout if we're going to be in contention."

Freshman Brandon Sherrod had a solid game off the Yale bench, contributing eight points and three rebounds in 17 minutes.

NOTES: Morgan finished 5-of-9 from the field and 4-of-6 from three-point range. He also was 4-of-4 from the foul line and has made 23 straight free throws dating back to the Hartford game in November… Grace had five assists and one turnover… Yale shot 59.1 percent from the field in the second half and 51.1 percent in the game… Yale had only a 28-27 edge in rebounding. The Bulldogs came into the game with a +6.8 rebounding margin, while Brown was -6.4… Yale is now 6-0 at home… The Bulldogs have trailed at the half in five of their 11 wins… It was Youth Day at Lee Amphitheater and a good crowd of 1,832 was on hand… The Yale players signed autographs for the fans after the game… The same two teams meet again in Providence next Saturday. Tipoff at the Pizzitola Center is slated for 2 p.m.

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity