For a few reasons, the scoreboard at halftime of yesterday’s Yale-UConn men’s basketball game necessitated a second, if not a third look.
First, because the score-differential was three points.
Second, because the team in the lead was not the preseason No. 1 team in the country.
Third, because a Preseason All-American was the game’s leading scorer by only a point, just a sliver in front of a little-known transplant from Princeton to Yale named Dominick Martin ’05.
The scoreboard after 40 minutes of play, however, was less eye-catching. The Huskies overcame a 31-28 halftime deficit to defeat the Bulldogs, 70-60, Monday in the first round of the Preseason NIT at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn.
The Bulldogs trailed early on in the game, but took the lead at the seven-minute mark off a three-pointer from forward Paul Vitelli ’05. Vitelli tallied two other scores from downtown in the game and finished with 11 points.
The Bulldog’s largest lead — a five-point margin — came after a jumper from guard Alex Gamboa ’05 with 4:35 left in the first half.
Yale out-hustled the University of Connecticut in the first half and no play better exemplified the Elis’ effort than the buzzer-beater that carried the game into halftime.
With the clock winding down in the first frame, Yale guard Gamboa missed a layup that bounced off the back iron. There was a mad scramble under the net for the rebound, but two tips later Yale center Justin Simon ’04 poked the ball back above the rim. The ball danced around the hoop before dropping through to send the Bulldogs to the lockerrooms with a three-point edge.
“Personally, I was really excited [at halftime],” Yale guard Edwin Draughan ’05. “I felt like we could play with any team in the country.” Draughan finished the game with 14 points.
Yale got the jump on UConn in the first half with a measured spread offense, preventing UConn from taking advantage of their speed and athleticism in the open court.
“It was a one-way discussion about what we were going to do [in the second half] — not to allow dribble-pick basketball,” UConn head coach Jim Calhoun said.
Calhoun’s lopsided lecture did the trick. The Huskies went on a 26-9 to open the second half, wresting back the lead from the Bulldogs for good.
With 4:59 left in the game, the Bulldogs put together a 8-0 run of their own to narrow the lead to nine, but the Elis were not able to get any closer.
Yale head coach James Jones was pleased with his team’s performance.
“We had a good game plan and we executed it pretty well,” he said. “A couple times, things got away from us.”
Martin, who sat out last year after transferring from Princeton, had a spectacular debut for the Bulldogs. The 6’10″ center scored 14 points while giving the nation’s top big man all he could handle.
The man Martin was guarding — center Emeka Okafor — registered a double-double, collecting 21 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Huskies.
UConn’s forward Denham Brown added 15 points and guard Ben Gordon contributed 13 more.
Okafor praised the Bulldogs for their patience and persistence.
“You’ve got to give them credit,” Okafor said. “They kept their poise. The public thought, Yale versus UConn, Yale doesn’t have a chance. They are going to win a lot of games.”