Sears Sparks Comeback With 26-Point, 13-Rebound Performance
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – It took the Bulldogs a little while to find their way in Saturday's season opener, but once they did, the results were impressive. Yale rallied from a 17-point second-half deficit to knock off Central Connecticut 93-77 in the second game of Connecticut 6 Classic at the Webster Bank Arena.
Justin Sears led the way with 26 points and 13 rebounds, both career highs. In the second half, he scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
The Bulldogs, who were down seven at halftime, trailed 63-46 with 14:12 remaining but outscored the Blue Devils 47-14 the rest of the way.
"At the start of the second half, it seemed like we were trying to get it all back in one possession," said James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Men's Basketball. "Justin really turned it around by chasing [the ball] on the glass."
Seven of Sears' 13 rebounds came on the offensive end. He finished 10-of-17 from the field and added four blocked shots.
"I have a lot of confidence that if there is one guy in front of me, I can get by him," said Sears, a sophomore.
There were plenty of contributors for the Bulldogs. Armani Cotton scored 17 points, while Javier Duren added 16 points, seven rebounds and three assists, despite getting in early foul trouble. Matt Townsend had eight points off the bench, Nick Victor scored six and Greg Kelley had five, including a big three-pointer that gave the Bulldogs a 69-67 lead with 5:48 left.
"We have to trust our teammates and trust our offense," Sears said. "We were able to get some wide open 3s on skip passes. We all know that everybody on the team will have their time to step up."
Jones played 11 players and 10 scored.
Kyle Vinales led Central Connecticut with 30 points, but only six came in the second half.
"We tried to trap him and force him into ball screens," Jones said. "We wanted to get the ball out of his hands. He is a tremendous, tremendous player."
Yale started the comeback with a 13-0 run, capped by a Townsend layup. Two Sears' free throws gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the second half with 6:45 left, and Yale later used a 9-0 run to snap a 69-69 tie and seize control. Central never got closer than seven in the final four minutes.
The comeback was the biggest by the Bulldogs since they overcame a 21-point deficit at Columbia in 2012, and the 93 points were the most in an opener since they beat Allegheny 98-55 in 2006.
Yale shot 54.4 percent from the field in the game and held Central to 42.6 percent. The Bulldogs also had a 44-33 edge in rebounding.
Yale is back in action on Monday at UConn. Tipoff is slated for 3 p.m. at the XL Center in Hartford.
Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity