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Break Over, Bulldogs Set To Face Central Connecticut

Brandon Sherrod (USC Sports Information)
Brandon Sherrod (USC Sports Information)

Teams Meet For First Time Since 2013

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NEW HAVEN, Conn.  – Final exams have come and gone. Saint Nick has paid his yearly visit. Now it's time for the Bulldogs to return to the court for the first time since Dec. 13. Yale makes a short trip to take on Central Connecticut on Wednesday night. Tip off at Detrick Gym is set for 7 p.m.

The first month of the season was a grueling adventure for the Bulldogs, who crisscrossed the country, travelling nearly 12,000 miles.  Now things settle down a bit. Yale (5-5) doesn't play outside the state of Connecticut again until Jan. 23 at Brown, and following Saturday's game at Hartford, has seven of its next eight games in the friendly confines of the John J. Lee Amphitheater, including five of the first six Ivy League games.

In addition to all the travel, the Bulldogs have faced a number of formidable opponents. Yale's five losses have come to teams that have a combined 48-13 (.787) record. Two (Duke and SMU) are ranked in the top-25, three (SMU, Duke and Albany) reached the NCAA Tournament a year ago and another (Illinois) played in the NIT. And the one team (USC) that didn't reach the postseason has won six in a row and is 11-2 on the season.

The Bulldogs come out of the long break still among the national leaders in two rebounding categories. Yale is 18th in rebounding margin (+10.3) and ninth in offensive rebounds (15.4 per game). Justin Sears, the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year, is a big reason for the success on the offensive glass. He is 11th in the nation, averaging 4.2 offensive rebounds per game.

Yale, which has led the Ivy League in rebounding margin in each of the last four years, features three of the league's top-10 rebounders. Nick Victor (7.4 rpg.) is seventh, Brandon Sherrod (7.2) is tied for eighth and Sears (6.7) is 10th.

Central Connecticut is the third in-state opponent for the Bulldogs, who already have wins over Fairfield and Sacred Heart. In the preseason, Yale was selected as the top team by all the coaches in the Connecticut 6.

That was just one of many preseason accolades for the Bulldogs, who were selected first in the official Ivy League preseason media poll and also picked as the league favorite by Dick Vitale and The Sporting News among others.

Yale is coming off a memorable 2014-15 campaign. The Bulldogs won 22 games, the most since 1948-49, knocked off defending national champion UConn and shared the Ivy League title. Yale finished 66th in the final NCAA RPI.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

OPENING 10 MINUTES: Yale is coming off a 16-day layoff for final exams and the holiday. Central Connecticut has played twice since Yale's last game. How quickly the Bulldogs find their rhythm will be a key to their success.

SECOND CHANCE POINTS: The Bulldogs, one of the top offensive rebounding teams in the nation, figure to have an edge on the glass. Can they turn second chances into points?

EXPERIENCE: Central Connecticut has just one senior on its roster and has five freshmen averaging double figures in minutes played. Yale, on the other hand, starts four seniors. That could give the Bulldogs the edge in a close game.

HISTORY LESSONS

Yale and Central Connecticut are playing for the first time since 2013, a 93-77 Bulldog victory in the Connecticut 6 Classic at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport. All five of the previous meetings between the teams have come in tournaments, the first three in the old Phoenix Mutual Classic at the XL Center in Hartford and the last two in the Connecticut 6. Yale leads the all-time series 4-1. The Bulldogs are playing their second game in Detrick Gym. The first came in the season opener this year when they beat Fairfield 70-57 in the Connecticut 6 Classic. 

SCOUTING CENTRAL CONNECTICUT

The Blue Devils (1-9) have been off since losing 99-52 to UConn on Dec. 23. Central picked up its first win of the season on Dec. 18, topping UMass 83-79. Khalen Cumberlander (12.7 ppg.) leads the team in scoring, while Austin Nehls (12.5 ppg.) also averages in double figures. Those two are the only players to have started all 10 games. Yale is the third Ivy League opponent for the Blue Devils, who lost 77-61 to Penn on Nov. 15 and fell to Brown 82-64 on Dec. 2. Head Coach Howie Dickenman is in his 20th season at his alma mater.

Report filed by Tim Bennett (timothy.bennett@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity