Bulldogs Hold Off Brown 74-67 In Ivy Opener

Armani Cotton. (photo by Sam Rubin 95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Armani Cotton. (photo by Sam Rubin 95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Sears Leads Four Players In Double Figures With 20 points

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Yale opened Ivy League play in impressive fashion. Justin Sears scored 20 points to lead four players in double figures as the Bulldogs held off Brown 74-67 on Youth Day at the John J. Lee Amphitheater.

Yale (7-8, 1-0 Ivy) was aggressive on offense throughout. The Bulldogs got to the free throw line 37 times and made 27.

"We talked before the game about not settling and getting to the rim," said James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Men's Basketball. "We feel our post guys are as good as anybody's in the league."

Sears was 12-of-15 from the free throw line, including making several big ones down the stretch. Armani Cotton added 19 points, Javier Duren scored 16 and Brandon Sherrod chipped in 10 off the bench. Nick Victor contributed four assists.

"When we've had balance, that's been the key," said Cotton, who was 5-of-7 from the field and added a team-high nine rebounds in 30 minutes. "Scoring is a team effort this year. I'm proud of the way we came together. It's a testament to our hard work."

Brown's Sean McGonagill, the Ivy League's leading scorer, finished with 17 points to pace the Bears but was only 5-of-13 from the field, including 3-of-8 from three-point range. The Bulldogs also forced McGonagill into six turnovers. Rafael Maia added 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Norman Hobbie scored 14.

Midway through the second half, it looked like Yale might pull away. Isaiah Salafia's free throw gave the Bulldogs their biggest lead of the game, 63-52, with 6:50 remaining. Brown, though, stormed back, and pulled within one, 66-65, on Cedric Kuakumensah's conventional three-point play with 2:21 left.

Three free throws pushed the Bulldogs' lead back to four. The Bears got back within two, but Sears made four free throws in the final minute to help seal the win.

"We made free throws and got some [defensive] stops when we needed to," Jones said of his team's execution down the stretch. "That is something that we haven't done well all year."

As expected, the game was close for much of the way. The first half featured two ties and four lead changes. Yale shot just 32.1 percent from the field but had a 33-31 lead at the break thanks in large part to Brown's 13 turnovers.

Cotton had a big first half for the Bulldogs, scoring 12 points and grabbing six rebounds.

"Armani was just tremendous," Jones said.

Brown (8-7, 0-1 Ivy) was shooting 56.3 percent midway through the first half, but Yale picked up its defensive intensity, and the Bears finished at 41.1 percent for the game.

"Our defense really propelled the offense," Cotton said. "Good things happen when you play well defensively. It gave us more energy."

Yale also did well sharing the ball, finishing with 12 assists on its 20 field goals.

"We were unselfish moving the ball," Cotton said. "We got back to basics and what made us successful early in the year."

The same two teams play again in Providence next Saturday.  Tipoff is slated for 4 p.m at the Pizzitola Center.

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity