Yale Stays Tied Atop Ivy League At 7-1; Best League Start Since 2001-02
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – One of Justin Sears' first coaches told him that last-second baskets often come off of offensive rebounds. That's just what happened Saturday against Princeton. Sears' put back with 4.4 seconds left in overtime lifted Yale to an exhilarating 66-65 victory over the Tigers before a raucous crowd of 1,644 at the John J. Lee Amphitheater.
Sears corralled a Jesse Pritchard three-pointer that went long, missed his first attempt, but got it back and scored.
Princeton had one last chance, but T.J. Bray dribbled the ball off his foot racing up court as time expired.
"That's what we do," said Yale head coach James Jones of his team's prowess on the offensive glass.
The Bulldogs are atop the Ivy League, averaging nearly 12 offensive rebounds per game, and Sears is the leader.
"Justin is relentless chasing the ball," said Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Men's Basketball.
Sears finished with 17 points, five rebounds, four blocks, three assists and two steals to lead the Bulldogs, who won their sixth straight game. Armani Cotton added 16 points and 11 rebounds, his third straight double-double, and Javier Duren had 10 points and five assists.
The win kept Yale (13-9, 7-1 Ivy) in a first-place tie with Harvard. The Crimson won 67-44 at Cornell.
The 7-1 Ivy start is the best for the Bulldogs since 2001-02.
"We're having fun," said Sears, who was 6-of-13 from the field.
The last-second shot capped what began as a frustrating night for Sears. He picked up two early fouls and was scoreless in six first-half minutes.
Yale trailed 30-19 at the intermission but opened the second half with a 16-6 run to get right back in it. Nick Victor's jumper gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the half, 40-39, with 10:44 left.
There were four ties and eight lead changes in the rest of the half.
Princeton tied the score at 56 on Will Barrett's conventional three-point play with 29 seconds left.
The Bulldogs had a couple of chances at the end of regulation but couldn't convert.
In overtime, Princeton had a 65-62 lead after two free throws from Bray with 46 seconds left. Cotton then made two free throws to bring Yale within one, and the Bulldogs' full-court press forced a turnover on the Tigers' ensuing possession, setting up Sears' heroics at the end.
The first-half was a struggle for the Bulldogs, who shot just 38.1 percent from the field and committed 13 turnovers.
It was defense that kept Yale within striking distance. Princeton was just 8-of-27 (29.6 percent) from the field in the opening 20 minutes.
"We didn't move the ball, and we turned it over," Jones said. "At halftime, we talked about being calm and getting back two points at a time."
The Bulldogs had just three turnovers in the second half and overtime.
Yale was forced to play the final 2:25 of regulation and overtime without Duren, its starting point guard who left with an injury.
"It speaks volumes about this team that Javier goes out and we were still able to win," Jones said. "Isaiah [Salafia] stepped up and did a great job."
Jones said preliminary indications are that Duren's injury is not serious.
NOTES: During warm-ups, Yale wore green shooting shirts as it teamed up with Coaching For Literacy for the Assistant Coaches For a Day initiative. The proceeds from the event will benefit Read To Grow, the only statewide nonprofit organization that connects with parents in the hospital setting and prepares them to take an active role in their child's literacy development from day one. The mission of Coaching for Literacy is to increase awareness about the number of people in America who are functionally or totally illiterate and the social problems associated with illiteracy. By leveraging the unique power of collegiate and professional sports, Coaching for Literacy raises money to support effective local literacy programs and schools focused on educating elementary and middle school students… It was Alumni Day and several former players were in attendace… Yale swept the Penn-Princeton home weekend for the second straight year and the sixth time in Jones' tenure as head coach.
Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity