Bulldogs Take Overtime Thriller In Home Opener

Alex Copeland (Steve Musco photo)
Alex Copeland (Steve Musco photo)

Five Players In Double Figures In 89-81 Win Over Lehigh

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The big crowd that came out to the John J. Lee Amphitheater for Thursday's home opener against Lehigh saw a number of new faces in the Yale lineup. And what they witnessed had to impress.

Five players scored in double figures, led by sophomore Alex Copeland who tossed in a career-high 20 points, as the Bulldogs earned a thrilling 89-81 overtime victory over Patriot League preseason favorite Lehigh before an enthusiastic crowd of 1,062.

Seniors Anthony Dallier and Sam Downey, who have both seen their roles grow so far this year, combined for 29 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists. Throw in the first career double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) for freshman Miye Oni, and there was a lot for the fans to like.

"Everybody's been waiting for a chance, and the guys are ready," said James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of the Bulldogs. "They want to be good. The best thing I've seen in the two games is that we have gotten contributions from everybody."

Downey, who was making only the fifth start of his career after playing behind Justin Sears '16 and Brandon Sherrod '16, contributed 17 points, seven rebounds and three assists despite being matched up against two-time Patriot League Player of the Year Tim Kempton.

"I had two great mentors [Sears and Sherrod] who pushed me really hard in practice," said Downey, coming off a 22-point performance in Yale's season-opening win at Washington. "I definitely feel I have something to prove in my last year of basketball."

Sophomore Blake Reynolds added 13 points and five rebounds, while fellow sophomore Trey Phills added six points. Junior Eric Anderson and freshman Austin Williams each chipped in with four points.

Kempton paced Lehigh with 30 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out in overtime.

The Bulldogs had to work to force the extra period. They trailed 71-64, with 3:48 remaining, but rolled off seven straight points, including a Reynolds three-pointer that tied it at 71 with 1:18 left.

Ross Kehan's jumper gave the Mountain Hawks the lead, but Copeland answered with a driving layup.

Yale had a chance to win thanks to a bizarre sequence in the final seconds. Kempton called a timeout that his team didn't have with one second left, which resulted in a technical foul. Downey, though, missed the free throw, forcing overtime.

Lehigh took its final lead of the game, 80-78, on an Austin Price breakway dunk midway through overtime, but the Bulldogs scored the next seven points. Oni's three-pointer gave Yale the lead for good, and Copeland made four free throws in the final 19 seconds to seal a very satisfying victory.

The game featured 11 ties and five lead changes. Lehigh's biggest advantage was seven late in the second half, while the Bulldogs had an early nine-point lead.

Yale has now won 15 straight games at Lee Amphitheater dating back to the 2014-15 season.

NOTES: In addition to his double-double, Oni contributed five blocks… The Bulldogs blocked nine shots in the game… Dallier had a career-high seven assists and committed only one turnover. In two games, he has 13 assists and only two turnover while taking over the starting point guard duties from an injured Makai Mason… Both teams were 7-of-18 from three-point range… Yale finished 14-of-17 from the free throw line… The Bulldogs outscored Lehigh 16-8 in overtime… Yale's very difficult early-season schedule continues with a visit to Virginia on Sunday. Tipoff is slated for 1 p.m… From there the Bulldogs head to Pittsburgh to face the Panthers on Tuesday at 7 p.m… Yale won't return to Lee Amphitheater until Dec. 3 against Albany.

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