Just 17 seconds into the men’s basketball game against Penn State Sunday, guard Alex Gamboa ’05 missed the team’s first shot, a three-pointer. But Gamboa’s miss was hardly a sign of things to come. For the second year in a row Yale rained three-pointers on Penn State, shooting a blistering 15-for-22 from beyond the arc in an 84-68 victory over the Nittany Lions.
Even head coach James Jones was impressed with his team’s shooting touch.
“The best teams in the country shoot about 40 percent from behind the arc,” Jones said. “70 percent three-point shooting is unbelievable.”
In last season’s win, forwards Paul Vitelli ’04 and Ime Archibong ’03 combined to knock down three treys to close out the first half and give the Bulldogs a commanding halftime lead en route to one of the year’s biggest wins. On Sunday, it was guards Edwin Draughan ’05 and Mark Lovett ’05 who led the way in a second half three-point onslaught that put the game out of reach. Draughan and Lovett finished with four three-pointers each on eight of nine shooting from three-point territory.
Yale’s 68.2 percent three-point accuracy against the Nittany Lions surpassed its season-best mark of 60 percent from the 2001-2001 campaign, also recorded at Penn State. The Elis never went more than six minutes without connecting from beyond the arc and connected on 10 of 13 three-pointers in the second half alone, a rate better than their second-half free-throw percentage. After three games, the team is shooting 48.4 percent from behind the arc.
“We did a solid job of guarding [Yale] in the first half,” Penn State coach Jerry Dunn said. “But in the second half, when they made their big run, a couple of our guys made some mental mistakes and gave up some big threes.”
The Bulldogs’ impressive shooting was a welcome change from the team’s first two games of the season, losses to Oklahoma State and Wake Forest in which Yale made just 16 of 42 three-point attempts. Against Penn State, seven players made at least one three-pointer.
“The whole team was shooting the ball really well today,” Draughan said. “It was a great team effort.”
In one three-minute stretch, the Elis hit four treys — three from Pennsylvania native Lovett — to boost a 10-point lead to 18 with 8:29 remaining. When Penn State sophomore Sharif Chambliss tried to get his team back into contention with three of his own three-pointers late in the game, Yale responded with back-to-back threes from Draughan and Gamboa to put the game away.
Before Thanksgiving break, Archibong said that although the three-pointer has been a huge part of the team’s success, it was not something the Bulldogs should depend on to win games.
“When it’s going, it’s wonderful for us,” Archibong said. “[But] if you rely on it too much, you end up getting beat.”
That said, the Bulldogs should not have a tough time outshooting their next opponent, Sacred Heart, which is making just 26.7 percent of its three-point attempts. The Elis face the Pioneers Thursday.