The men’s basketball team has a flair for the dramatic. The squad’s second overtime game of the year came down to the final seconds — again.
But the back-and-forth contest that sparked the gripping finale could have gone to either Yale or Brown. With 49 seconds left in the extra frame, captain and guard Eric Flato ’08 put the Elis ahead by three on a pair of shots from the charity stripe. The visitors got off three attempts but their final, desperate chance at the buzzer was not enough to hand them their first Ivy win. The crowd erupted and Yale won, 66-63.
The Bulldogs, with a height advantage inside the paint, began the match by getting the ball in to forwards Ross Morin ’09 and Travis Pinick ’09, who put up a combined 16 points in the first half. But, about midway through the period, the sharp-shooting Brown offense took control of the game’s rhythm.
“We kind of fell into what we’ve done in a few games earlier,” Yale head coach James Jones said. “We settled for three point shots and it hurt us. We settled for jump shots when the meat and potatoes is in the paint.”
The visitors hit six of nine three-point attempts in the opening stanza to jump to an eight-point lead with four minutes left to play. The Bears’ star rookie, Peter Sullivan, sunk three shots from beyond the arc to lead his team with nine points on the half.
But the loud crowd at the Lee Amphitheater never faltered and a Pinick steal, trans-court drive and dunk pushed the noise level ever higher. The celebration was halted, though, because Pinick’s bucket would be the last points of the first half for the Elis, who headed into the locker room down 31-25.
“We really stressed at the half to drive the ball inside,” Flato said. “The closer to the hoop you are the more likely you are to score.”
After the break, the game did not go on as the Bulldogs may have hoped. Early second-half play was halting at best. The Elis committed six fouls in the first four minutes, and the two squads racked up only one point combined in that stretch — a free throw from center Matt Kyle ’08.
Then Morin ended the drought with an easy layup that seemed to restart each team’s offense. Morin, who racked up 10 points in the first half, eventually recorded a career-high 24.
“The guys did a great job finding me,” he said. “I was able to get easy buckets all game long because of their penetration and their good looks. A lot of shots I really didn’t have to do much.”
Just a minute after Morin’s shot, Pinick flipped a ball through the basket as he fell to the floor, giving him a chance to make a three-point play. He sunk the free throw to pull the Elis ahead for the first time since the middle of the first period.
The Elis continued to dominate in the paint — 46 of their 66 points were scored from inside — but the Bears’ guards never let up and the seesaw match never saw a clear leader.
But the real action happened with just 25.9 seconds remaining on the regulation clock. With the Bulldogs down by two, guard Caleb Holmes ’08 — who was 0-6 from the field on the game — stepped to the line with the chance to even up the score and force a five-minute overtime.
The raucous crowd silenced, watching as the suspense mounted. The senior guard easily placed the ball in the bucket twice and the game went to overtime. The final defensive stand in the extra period held off last-minute Brown attempts to steal the game and the match ended with the Elis on top by three.
“We just played pretty good man-to-man defense,” Flato said. “That’s how it bubbled down. We tried not to let them get open looks and every shot they took there was a hand in their face.”