January 23, 2009

Defensive Struggle Goes To Yale 57-55

Jan. 23, 2009

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The Yale men's basketball team took a four-game winning streak into Friday's game with Brown, and a big reason why was defense. So perhaps it was only fitting that is was a defensive stand at the end of the game that helped the Bulldogs extend their winning streak to five with a 57-55 victory over the Bears in front of a Youth Day crowd of 2,011 at the John J. Lee Amphitheater.

Trailing by two with nine seconds left and following a timeout, the Bears inbounded the ball to Chris Skrelja, who was harassed along the near side by Chris Andrews and unable to make a pass or get a shot off before time expired.

"Chris's defense really took away [Skrelja's] vision," said James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Men's Basketball. "That was really the difference in the basketball game. That's why there was no overtime."

It looked like Andrews had sealed the victory when he made a three-pointer with the shot clock winding down that gave Yale a 57-51 lead with 41 seconds left. It was his only field goal of the game after he had missed his first five shots.

"I had my feet set and followed through," said Andrews. "The coaches gave me great advice, and my teammates told me to keep shooting and have confidence. Luckily I was able to hit it."

The Bears, though, didn't go quietly. Matt Mullery made two free throws, and on the ensuing in-bounds play, Scott Friske stole the ball and made a layup to pull Brown within two with 22 seconds remaining. Yale then missed a pair of free throws to give Brown a chance in the final seconds, but Andrews' defense helped seal the win.

"The key to our defense is our communication," said Andrews, who also had a big steal with the Bulldogs ahead by three with 1:13 left. "At the end of the game you just have to have a heightened sense of awareness."

With the victory, the Bulldogs (7-9) improved to 2-0 in Ivy play for the first time since the 2001-02 season and swept the season series from Brown for the first time since 1997-98. Yale topped the Bears 70-61 last Friday in Providence.

Ross Morin recorded his third double-double of the season with 20 points and 10 rebounds. He made 8 of 12 shots from the field. Alex Zampier added 12 points, while Travis Pinick contributed six points, six rebounds and three assists.

Yale once again got strong play from its bench, which outscored Brown's bench 14-4 on Friday and 25-4 in the two games with the Bears. Michael Sands had six points and seven rebounds, while Paul Nelson scored five points and grabbed three rebounds in eight minutes. Jordan Gibson had three points.

"It's nice to have a well balanced team, where you have confidence in the guys coming off the bench, and they come through for you," Jones said.

Matt Mullery paced Brown (6-10, 0-2 Ivy) with 22 points, nine rebounds and six blocked shots. Adrian Williams added 16 points.

Yale outrebounded the Bears 33-25.

After falling behind by 11 early in last week's game, the Bulldogs started much stronger on Friday, taking a 9-2 lead after five minutes. When Gibson completed a three-point play with a free throw, it gave Yale its biggest lead of the first half, 15-7. Brown, though, closed the half with an 8-2 run to pull within 28-27 at the intermission.

There were seven ties in the second half. A Williams three-pointer gave the Bears their only lead of the game, 39-37, with 11:39 left.

In addition to the Youth Day festivities, Yale's new character mascot, Boola, was introduced in the first half and that helped excite the big crowd in the Amphitheater.

"The energy we get from the crowd is a big help," Jones said. "We're so used to playing on the road, that it makes it that much sweeter to come home."

The Bulldogs won't get to enjoy the home environment again until Feb. 13. They play their next four games on the road, starting next Friday at Columbia. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m.

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity


video by Steven Horn '10, Yale Sports Publicity

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