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No. 2 Bulldogs To Face No. 3 Princeton In Ivy League Tournament Semifinals

Trey Phills (dspics.com)
Trey Phills (dspics.com)

Friendly Confines Of Lee Amphitheater Set To Host Tournament

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. – After a very successful regular season, Yale is set to begin its quest to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs, who shared the Ivy League title with Harvard, are the No. 2 seed in the Ivy League Tournament, presented by TIAA, and meet No. 3 Princeton in the second semifinal on Saturday in the friendly confines of the John J. Lee Amphitheater. The tip is slated for 3 p.m. after No. 1 Harvard and No. 4 Penn play at 12:30 p.m. in the first semifinal. Both games will be televised on ESPNU with Mike Couzens and Dalen Cuff on the call.

The two winners meet in the championship game on Sunday at noon on ESPN2.

Yale, which has qualified for the Ivy Tournament in each of its first three years, enters with a 20-7 overall record, the third time in the last five years and the eighth time in school history the Bulldogs have won at least 20 games in a season.

The 2018-19 journey started in a far-away place when Yale kicked off the season in Shanghai, China, posting a 76-59 victory over California in the Pac-12 China Game. In all, the Bulldogs travelled nearly 30,000 miles during the two months of non-conference play, posting a 10-3 record, including the win over the Bears and a second victory over a power conference foe in Miami of the ACC.

Yale has excelled in the principles James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of the Bulldogs, values the most – rebounding, defense and sharing the ball. The Bulldogs lead the Ivy League in rebounding margin (+5.0), something they have done in six of the last seven years, field goal percentage defense (.408) and assists (17.4).

Jones, the dean of Ivy League coaches in his 20th season, has guided Yale to 308 wins, which is two shy of tying former Penn coach Fran Dunphy as the second winningest coach in Ivy League history.

The Bulldogs were picked third in the league's preseason media poll back in November but as is often the case exceeded expectations. Yale has now finished higher than projected in 10 of the last 14 years.

Yale has been remarkably consistent during Jones' tenure. The Bulldogs have finished with a winning league record in the last nine years and have now finished fourth or better in Ivy play in each of the last 19 years.

This year's team features a number of offensive weapons. Ivy League Player of the Year Miye Oni leads four Bulldogs who average double figures in scoring at 17.4 ppg. First team All-Ivy selection Alex Copeland (13.3 ppg.), Blake Reynolds (11.1 ppg.) and Jordan Bruner (10.2 ppg.) are the other double figure scorers. Trey Phills serves as the team's defensive stopper, while Paul Atkinson, Azar Swain and Eric Monroe anchor a bench that has made significant contributions.

Atkinson leads the league in field goal percentage at .692, while Bruner is second in rebounding at 8.5 rpg. Oni is in the top 10 in the Ivy League in scoring (3rd, 17.4 ppg.), rebounding (8th, 6.4 rpg.) and assists (3rd, 3.6 per game).

WHO'S HOT

  • In his last five games, Blake Reynolds is shooting 55.4 percent (31-of-56) from the field, 47.1 percent (8-of-17 from three-point range and averaging 14.8 points. Reynolds matched his career-high with 20 points in last Saturday's win at Princeton. In addition, he had the highest offensive efficiency rating of any Ivy player in an Ivy game this season with that performance at Princeton.
  • Alex Copeland has made 17 straight free throws dating back to the home game with Harvard on Feb. 23. He already holds the school record with 40 consecutive made free throws. The record streak began late last season and ended early this season. In 14 Ivy games this season, Copeland averaged 15.7 points.
  • Jordan Bruner is averaging 10.2 rebounds over the last five games. He matched his career-high with 15 rebounds in the home game with Columbia.
  • Miye Oni scored 30 or more points in three Ivy games this season, tallying 31 in the win at Dartmouth, 35 in the home win over Princeton and 30 in the home victory over Cornell. Oni scored in double figures in all but one game this season.

KEY STATS

  • The Bulldogs are 19-1 when they outrebound their opponents and 1-5 when they are outrebounded.
  • Yale is 16-1 when it leads at the half. The Bulldogs won three times when trailed at halftime.
  • The Bulldogs are 17-1 when they lead with five minutes remaining in the second half.

NATIONAL LEADERS

The Bulldogs are third in the nation in defensive rebounds per game (30.37), ninth in assists per game (17.3), 10th in field goal percentage (49.4 percent), 29th in scoring offense (80.5 ppg.), 33rd in rebounding margin (+5.0) and 35th in field goal percentage defense (40.8 percent).

OFFENSIVE RECORDS

The Bulldogs have enjoyed consistent offensive success this season. Yale has scored 90 or more points in a game a school record seven times. The Bulldogs also are on the verge of setting a school record for field goals made in a season. They currently have 803 field goals, one shy of the record set by the 2001-02 team. In addition, Yale is 221 points shy of the school record of 2,394 points in a season, also set by the 2001-02 team.

STARTING FIVE

Alex Copeland, Trey Phills, Jordan Bruner, Miye Oni and Blake Reynolds started 23 of Yale's 27 games, including 13 of 14 Ivy League games. The only Ivy game the group didn't start was the home finale vs. Columbia when senior Thomas Ryan was in the starting lineup in place of Oni.

MILESTONES

Blake Reynolds appeared in his 100th career game at Yale on Feb. 9 vs. Penn… Trey Phills played in his 100th game on Feb. 23 vs. Harvard… Alex Copeland has played in 98 games entering the tournament. Copeland became the 29th player in school history to score at least 1,000 career points in the Feb. 22 win over Dartmouth… Miye Oni reached the 1,000-point mark earlier this season… Blake Reynolds has 936 career points… Oni, a junior, is 28 points shy of passing Chris Dudley '87 to move into 10th place on Yale's all-time scoring list… Oni's 171 career three-pointers are the fourth most in school history… James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of the Bulldogs, earned career win No. 300 as the Bulldogs defeated Brown 79-71 on Jan. 25. Jones becomes the third coach in Ivy League history to reach 300 career victories, joining Pete Carril (514 at Princeton) and Fran Dunphy (310 at Penn).

CHALLENGING NON-CONFERENCE SCHEDULE

The Bulldogs posted a 10-3 record in non-conference play this season. The three losses came to Memphis in double overtime, Vermont and Duke. Those five teams currently have a 71-23 (.755) combined record.

HISTORY LESSONS

Yale and Princeton are meeting for the second straight Saturday. Last weekend at Jadwin Gym, four Bulldogs scored in double figures as Yale rolled to an 81-59 win to sweep the regular season series. Miye Oni scored 35 points as the Bulldogs knocked off Princeton 74-60 in the first meeting at Lee Amphitheater. Yale and Princeton are playing in the Ivy League Tournament for the second time. The Tigers beat the Bulldogs 71-59 in the first Ivy League Tournament Championship game in 2017. Princeton leads the all-time series 150-89. Yale and Princeton have met at least once every year since 1902, which ties the series with Yale-Columbia as the oldest continuous series in Division I.

HISTORY VS. THE FIELD

Yale won the only meeting with Harvard in the Ivy League Tournament, 73-71 in the 2017 semifinals. The teams played in an Ivy League playoff game in 2015 and the Crimson escaped with a 53-51 victory to earn the Ivy's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Harvard won both meetings with Yale this season, 65-49 in Cambridge and 88-86 in an instant classic at Lee Amphitheater, but the Bulldogs lead the all-time series 120-81.

Yale and Penn played in the Ivy Tourney last season with the Quakers winning 80-57 in the semifinals. The teams split the two regular season meetings this year. The Bulldogs won 59-50 at Lee Amphitheater, while the Quakers took the meeting at the Palestra 77-66. Penn leads the all-time series 150-81.

SCOUTING PRINCETON

The Tigers (16-11, 8-6 Ivy) are led by Myles Stephens, who earned first team All-Ivy recognition on Tuesday. Stephens is eighth in the Ivy League in scoring (13.6 ppg.) and seventh in rebounding (6.5 rpg.). Richmond Aririguzoh also averages double figures in scoring at 11.6 ppg. He was a second team All-Ivy selection. Princeton leads the league in free throw percentage (.739) and is third in field goal percentage defense (.429). The Tigers are making their second appearance in the Ivy League Tournament.

SCOUTING THE FIELD

Harvard, the top seed, finished the regular season at 17-10 overall and 10-4 in Ivy play. The Crimson feature first team All-Ivy selection Bryce Aiken, who averages 21.8 points. First year Noah Kirkwood was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Year after averaging 10.4 points overall and 10.8 points in league games. The Crimson is making its third appearance in the Ivy Tournament and reached the championship game last year.

Penn (19-11, 7-7 Ivy) won four of its last five games to earn the No. 4 seed in the tournament. AJ Brodeur was a unanimous first team All-Ivy selection for the second straight year after averaging 17.4 points and 8.2 rebounds. Devon Goodman (14.0 ppg.) was named to the second team. The Quakers are the defending Ivy Tournament champions. They are making their third appearance in the tournament overall.

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