March 14, 2012

Bulldogs Fall 68-56 At Fairfield In CIT Opening Round

Mangano Scores 17 Points In Final Game

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – At halftime of its opening round CollegeInsider.com Tournament game with Fairfield, it looked like the Yale men's basketball team might be poised to make a deep run in the tournament. The Bulldogs were running on all cylinders and had a 39-26 lead.

The momentum, though, turned in a big way in the second half. The Stags picked up their defensive intensity and rallied for a 68-56 victory before a Webster Bank Arena crowd of 1,744 that included a nice Yale contingent.

"The first 20 minutes was one of our best of the season. We did a lot of things right," said James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Men's Basketball. "In the second half, Fairfield was able to get the ball inside fairly easily. They also were able to turn us over and turn it into points."

The loss ends what was a very successful season for the Bulldogs, who won 19 games, their most since 2001-02. Yale also advanced to the postseason for only the fifth time in school history.

"It's a tough way to end," said senior Greg Mangano. "You always want to win your last game, but we won 19 games and had the opportunity to play in the postseason. There is certainly nothing to be ashamed of."

Mangano paced the Bulldogs with 17 points, eight rebounds and one block in 35 minutes. He finishes his outstanding career as Yale's all-time leader with 213 blocks, the third most in Ivy League history, 735 rebounds, which is sixth in school history, and 1,213 points.

It was also the final game for Reggie Willhite, who had his usual solid all-around performance. He scored 10 points, grabbed five rebounds, handed out three assists and added two steals in 38 minutes. Willhite finished the season with a school-record 65 steals. His 132 career steals are the seventh most in Yale history.

"They did a great job," Jones said of Willhite and Mangano. "They led us all season."

Early on, it looked like there might be quite a few games left for the two. Yale shot 60 percent (15-of-25) from the field, while holding the Stags to 44.4 percent. The Bulldogs led 18-9 after nine minutes and had a comfortable advantage for the rest of the half.

The Stags, though, were a different team after the intermission. Fairfield opened the second half with a 24-3 run. Colin Nickerson was the catalyst. He scored 16 of his game-high 22 points in the final 20 minutes.

The Stags' lead was 11, 61-50, with 1:52 remaining, but poor free throw shooting allowed Yale to get back in the game. Fairfield missed seven straight from the line, and the Bulldogs pulled to within five, 61-56, on Willhite's layup with 1:06 left.

After Rakim Sander made one of two foul shots, Austin Morgan had two opportunities to cut the lead to three, but both his three-pointers missed. Keith Matthews then made two free throws with 47 seconds left, and Sanders knocked down a pair with 39 seconds remaining to seal the victory.

NOTES: The Bulldogs committed eight turnovers in the second half, which Fairfield turned into 14 points… Yale shot just 16.7 percent (5-of-30) from the field in the second half… The Bulldogs outrebounded Fairfield 35-31… Mangano said he will continue to train in preparation for the Portsmouth Invitational next month. Representatives from every NBA team will attend the four-day, 12-game tournament…Fairfield (20-14) expects to host a second round game on Sunday. The opponent will be announced sometime on Thursday.

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity