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LET’S DANCE! Bulldogs Clinch NCAA Tournament Berth With Win At Columbia

Yale celebrates. (photo by Mike McLaughlin)
Yale celebrates. (photo by Mike McLaughlin)

Mason Scores 22 Points As Yale Rolls To 71-55 Win

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Yale is headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 54 years. Makai Mason scored 22 points to lead four players in double figures as the Bulldogs cruised to a 71-55 victory over Columbia before a sellout crowd of 2,720, many of them Yale fans, at Levien Gym.

Yale used the same formula it has all season, winning the battle of the boards 39-24, limiting Columbia to 40.4 percent from the field and assisting on 16 of its 27 field goals. Rebounding, defense and sharing the ball has led the Bulldogs to 22 wins and a 13-1 Ivy League mark, which matches the best in school history.

The 1961-62 team, the last to reach the NCAA Tournament, also won 13 Ivy games.

The Bulldogs will learn their NCAA Tournament destination on Selection Sunday, Mar. 13.

"It's an amazing feeling," said Brandon Sherrod. "It's surreal. I don't think it's really hit me yet. We're just so thankful, so blessed. You can't really script a story like this."

Sherrod, who finished with 13 points and six rebounds, was one of many contributors. Nick Victor posted a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds, Anthony Dallier also scored 12 points, and Justin Sears had four points, eight rebounds and three blocks.

The bench also played a key role. Khaliq Ghani made two huge three-pointers, Sam Downey had two points and two rebounds to go along with solid interior defense, and freshman Trey Phills added a blocked shot.

A large contingent of former players were on hand to share in the celebration.

"It is a joyous time for Yale basketball and all our fans," said James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Men's Basketball who is in his 17th year at the helm.

The Bulldogs, who have won 17 of their last 18 games, seized control from the start. They led 17-3 after six minutes and were up 41-27 at halftime.

The Lions (21-10, 10-4 Ivy) made one push in the second half. Lukas Meisner's three-pointer pulled Columbia within 49-45 with 9:26 left. Mason and Ghani, though, answered with back-to-back three-pointers and just like that Yale's lead was back to 10. The Lions never got closer than six the rest of the way.

As the final minutes ticked down, the Yale players and fans soaked in the moment.

"There is nothing better for a coach than to be on the sidelines in the final seconds and know that you can't lose," Jones said. "They don't have an 11-point play. It felt wonderful."

The Bulldogs average margin of victory in their 13 Ivy wins was 13.6 points.

Yale has won 22 games overall for the second straight year. The Bulldogs will have a chance to post the most wins since the 1906-07 team went 30-7-1 with a victory in the NCAA Tournament.

This season has been extra special after Yale narrowly missed out on the NCAA Tournament last year, falling to Harvard in a playoff game.

"It's a crazy feeling, after all the things that happened last year," said Mason. "It's really incredible to put it all together."

NOTES: The team, staff and alums celebrated with a fantastic dinner at Carmine's in New York following the game… Yale shot 50.9 percent from the field and was 9-of-20 from three-point range… Maodo Lo scored 22 points to pace Columbia.

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