Oni Scores 29 Points, Named Game MVP
MIAMI, Fla. – The season isn't even a month old, and Yale already has two signature wins. Miye Oni scored a career-high 29 points and grabbed six rebounds, and Paul Atkinson added 17 points and five rebounds as the Bulldogs rallied from a 15-point second-half deficit to stun Miami 77-73 in the final game of the Hoophall Miami Invitational at American Airlines Arena.
Yale opened the season with a 76-59 victory over Cal of the Pac 12 back on Nov. 9 in China.
Trailing 56-41 early in the second half, Yale played a near flawless final 17 minutes to earn the victory over the ACC Hurricanes.
Oni hit two free throws to snap a 73-73 tie with 1:30 left. The Hurricanes had two opportunities to tie but couldn't capitalize. Jordan Bruner made sure Miami didn't get a third when he grabbed an offensive rebound with 15 seconds left and got the ball to Oni, who was fouled. Oni made two free throws, including the front end of the 1-and-1, to seal the victory.
"Everyone played a role in this win," said Oni, who was 10-of-15 from the field. "Whether it was in practice or talking on the bench or making big plays like Azar [Swain] taking a charge, Paul and Jordan getting huge rebounds, Blake [Reynolds] hitting threes, everyone making plays. It was a team effort and we couldn't have done it without every single one of our guys."
Bruner finished with 11 points, five rebounds and four assists, despite getting into early foul trouble. Reynolds added 10 points, including a pair of three-pointers, and Alex Copeland contributed seven points and four assists.
The Hurricanes, who came into the night as the No. 29 team in the nation in the KenPom rankings, shot 53.3 percent from the field and outrebounded the Bulldogs 19-9 in building a 49-39 lead at halftime.
The second half was a different story. Yale limited Miami to 30 percent shooting, 24 points and outrebounded the Hurricanes 26-14.
"The level of toughness our team is starting to show [was the difference in the second half]," said James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of the Bulldogs. "Outside of a couple of runs they had, I thought we were really good on the defensive end."
The Hurricanes scored only two points over the final seven minutes.
"We toughened up and got stops and executed our offense," said Oni, who was selected as the game's most valuable player.
The win was the third over an ACC opponent during Jones' tenure as head coach. Yale knocked off Clemson during the 2001-02 season and beat Boston College in 2010-11.
The game was a homecoming for Atkinson, a West Palm Beach, Fla., native. Atkinson, playing in front of a number of supporters, was 8-of-10 from the field.
"Playing at home was big for me," he said. "I loved getting to have my family and friends come out to the game. Being able to come out with the win, playing with my teammates, who played their tails off, was special. I think it is a big step for us becoming a really good team."
The game was the fifth straight away from home to open the season for the Bulldogs, who will finally play in the friendly confines of Lee Amphitheater on Wednesday night vs. Lehigh.
"We want to challenge ourselves and see what kind of warts we have so we can work on them over the next two months before the Ivy League season starts," Jones said of the difficult early schedule.
NOTES: The Bulldogs were playing their second game this season in an NBA Arena. American Airlines Arena is home to the Miami Heat. Earlier, Yale played Memphis at the FedEx Forum, which also is the home of the Memphis Grizzlies… Yale was 26-of-40 on two-point shots… The Bulldogs fly home on Sunday morning… Yale alum Eddie Lampert '84 hosted a terrific team dinner on his yacht in Miami Harbor on Friday night… Wednesday's game vs. Lehigh is a 7 p.m. tip at Lee Amphitheater.
Report filed by Tim Bennett (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity