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Gameday Central: Bulldogs Open With Sacred Heart At Connecticut 6 Classic

Austin Morgan (Ron Waite photo)
Austin Morgan (Ron Waite photo)

Game To Be Televised On SportsNet New York (SNY)

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The Bulldogs kick off the 2012-13 season on Saturday in the Connecticut 6 Classic at the University of Hartford. Yale plays in the middle game at 5:30 p.m. against Sacred Heart. Hartford and Quinnipiac meet in the first game at 3 p.m., while Central Connecticut and Fairfield play the third game at 8 p.m. All three games will be televised on SportsNet New York (SNY), although the third game will be shown on tape delay at 9 p.m. John Holt will handle the play-by-play, while former Vermont coach Tom Brennan provides analysis.

The Bulldogs will feature a new look from last year's team that won 19 games and played in the post season tournament. Greg Mangano and Reggie Willhite, who combined to take nearly half of the team's shots, have graduated. Head coach James Jones, though, is confident he has a number of players more than capable of filling the void created by the loss of Mangano and Willhite. Expect a much more balanced attack from the Bulldogs this season. Senior Austin Morgan (11.8 ppg.) is Yale's leading returning scorer. Michael Grace and Sam Martin are the only other seniors on the roster. Junior Jeremiah Kreisberg (7.7 ppg.) and sophomores Brandon Sherrod (4.0 ppg.) and Matt Townsend (1.3 ppg.) are the leading candidates to replace Mangano in the low post.


Yale and Sacred Heart are playing for the 12th straight year, and the Bulldogs lead the all-time series 7-4. Last year in Fairfield, Reggie Willhite and Greg Mangano combined for 44 points as Yale rallied from a nine-point deficit to defeat the Pioneers 73-71. The two teams are playing for the second time in the Connecticut 6 Classic. In 2009, Sacred Heart outscored Yale 92-86 at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport.


The Bulldogs earned their first victory in the Connecticut 6 Classic last year, knocking off Central Connecticut 73-69 at the Mohegan Sun Arena. Greg Mangano scored 23 points and added 13 rebounds, while Reggie Willhite contributed 21 points. Yale is 1-2 all-time in the classic. The Bulldogs fell to Sacred Heart 92-86 in 2009 and lost to Quinnipiac 84-75 in 2010.


The Pioneers feature one of the nation's top scorers in senior guard Shane Gibson, who finished fourth in Division I in scoring last year, averaging 22.0 points. He was recently named to CBS Sports' Top-30 "Under the Radar" List. Sacred Heart was picked to finish sixth in the Northeast Conference preseason poll. The Pioneers are returning four starters from last season's 14-18 squad. Gibson will be joined in the backcourt by junior point guard Evan Kelley, who averaged 7.3 ppg last season. Senior center Justin Swidowski is back after averaging 11.1 points and 5.3 rebounds a year ago. Juniors Chris Evans and Louis Montes are back as well and averaged 8.1 and 7.8 points per game, respectively, in 2011-12. Dave Bike is in his 35th year as the head coach of the Pioneers. The game against Yale will be the 1000th of his career.  


The Bulldogs have finished fourth or better in the Ivy League in each of the last 12 years. That didn't earn Yale much respect in the preseason Ivy League media poll, which projected a sixth-place finish for the Bulldogs. Yale, though, has a history of proving the prognosticators wrong. In five of the last seven years, the Bulldogs have finished higher than projected. Princeton is the near unanimous favorite to win the league. The Tigers received 16 of the 17 first-place votes. Defending champion Harvard was picked second followed by Columbia, Cornell and Penn. Brown and Dartmouth round out the poll.



First-Place Votes in Parentheses

Rank       School............................................ Points

1.             Princeton (16)..................................... 134

2.             Harvard (1)......................................... 109

3.             Columbia.............................................. 90

4.             Cornell................................................. 80

5.             Penn.................................................... 74

6.             Yale...................................................... 55

7.             Brown.................................................. 50

8.             Dartmouth........................................... 20 


Senior Austin Morgan has earned a couple of preseason honors. He was named first team All-League by the Blue Ribbon College Yearbook and received second team recognition from College Sports Madness and Lindy's. Morgan, a two-year starter, is seventh all-time at Yale with 139 career three-pointers. Last year, he finished fifth in the nation and set a school record with a .900 free throw percentage. In addition, he finished ninth in the Ivy League in scoring (11.8 ppg.), fifth in three-point field goal percentage (.386) and sixth in three-point field goals made (2.1 per game). His 61 three-pointers tied for the fourth most in a season in school history.

Junior Jeremiah Kreisberg was named to the preseason third team by College Sports Madness. Kreisberg has started 47 games in his first two seasons. Last year, he started all 29 games and finished third on the team in rebounding (5.1 rpg.) and fourth in scoring (7.7 ppg.).


The 2012-13 Yale roster features four freshmen. Khaliq Bedart Ghani (Inglewood, CA), Jack Montague (Brentwood, TN), Justin Sears (Plainfield, NJ) and Nick Victor (Dallas, TX) all bring strong credentials. Bedart-Ghani led Loyola High School in California in rebounding and blocks as a senior last winter. Montague was the district, region and county most valuable player as a senior at Brentwood High School. He averaged 17.0 points and seven assists and scored more than 1,200 career points. Sears earned first team all-state, all-area and all-county honors as a senior at Plainfield High School in New Jersey. He scored 1,048 points and grabbed 1,063 rebounds in his career to become only the second player in school history to score over 1,000 points and grab more than 1,000 rebounds. He helped lead Plainfield to two New Jersey Tournament of Champion title games where it lost to national power St. Anthony's both times. Victor spent one year at the Winchendon School and earned NEPSAC honorable mention recognition. At Lovejoy High School in Dallas, Texas, he was the 2010 District most valuable player.


•  The Bulldogs don't play their first home game until Saturday, Nov. 24 against Army at 2 p.m. That is the first of 12 games in the friendly confines of the John J. Lee Amphitheater.

•  Yale will be playing in the NABC Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. The first game will be next Monday at Saint Joseph, the Atlantic 10 preseason favorite. The Bulldogs then head to Evansville, Ind., for three games, against Evansville, Buffalo and Western Illinois.

•  New England rival New Hampshire is on the schedule for the first time since 1998. The Bulldogs meet the Wildcats on Dec. 8 in Durham, N.H.

•  Yale faces a very challeging three-game road trip right after Christmas. The Bulldogs travel to Nevada, Saint Mary's and Iowa State. The trip to Nevada is a homecoming for Reno native Austin Morgan, while the trip to Iowa State is a homecoming for Ames, Iowa, native Jesse Pritchard.

•  The biggest test of the season, though, may come in Lee Amphitheater when preseason No. 10 Florida visits on Jan. 6. The Gators return three starters from a squad that went 26-11 and fell one game shy of the Final Four last year.

•  The Florida game is one of two in the Amphitheater that will be nationally televised. The NBC Sports Network will be in town for the game with the Gators, while CBS Sports Television will show the home game with Harvard on Feb. 23.

•  Yale kicks off Ivy League play on Jan. 19 at Brown. Five of the first six Ivy games will be on the road.


Reggie Willhite, the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year last year as a senior at Yale, was selected in the fifth round of the 2012 NBA Development League Draft on Nov. 2. Willhite was selected by the Reno Bighorns with the fifth pick in the fifth round. He was the 70th player chosen overall. Willhite becomes the second Yale player to be drafted by a D-League team. Alex Zampier '10 was chosen in the seventh round of the 2012 draft by the New Mexico Thunderbirds. Willhite enjoyed an outstanding career for the Bulldogs. His 132 career steals are the seventh most in school history. As a senior, he earned second team All-Ivy recognition, set a single-season school record with 65 steals and was 17th in the nation in steals (2.24 per game). Willhite joins a long list of players that have earned professional opportunities during James Jones' tenure as the head coach at Yale. Ted Smith (England), Matt Minoff (Israel), Paul Vitelli (Italy), Dominick Martin (Spain), Matt Kyle (Portugal), Caleb Holmes (Iceland), Ross Morin (Switzerland), Eric Flato (England), Greg Mangano (Turkey) and Edwin Draughan (France) have all played overseas. Zampier and Neil Yanke (tryout with Los Angeles Lakers) both had opportunities in the United States.

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity