It was a weekend the men’s basketball team will not soon forget.
The Bulldogs (11–9, 4–2 Ivy) edged Cornell (5–15, 1–5) 71–70 Friday night and defeated Columbia (12–8, 3–3) 72–67 a night later. An exhilarating two-minute comeback helped the Bulldogs erase a 10-point deficit to beat the Big Red. Against the Lions, the Bulldogs managed to hold on to a 16-point first half lead to secure the win.
Sitting at 2–2 in the Ivy League, the Bulldogs needed a win against Cornell, one of the cellar dwellers of the conference, in order to stay in title contention. Friday night, the Bulldogs got off to the hot start that they were looking for. Four minutes in to the game, a Porter Braswell ’11 three-pointer gave Yale a 20–9 advantage. But after watching the Bulldogs start the game on a 12–2 run, Cornell went on a 12–2 tear of its own to close the deficit to one. The Bulldogs extended their lead to 30–23 with 3:22 to go, but the last three minutes were all Big Red. Cornell scored 13 of the next 15 points to enter halftime with a 36–32 lead.
The game stayed close for the first eight-and-a-half minutes of the second half. After Cornell’s Drew Ferry drilled a three, forward Jeremiah Kreisberg ’14 scored four points to give the Bulldogs a one-point lead with 8:10 left. That would be Yale’s last lead for eight minutes as Cornell went on a 13–2 run over the next six minutes to take a 65–55 advantage with 1:58 left.
“With three minutes left in the game, I said to myself, ‘We’re going to win this game,’” head coach James Jones said in a press release. “I didn’t know how it was going to happen, but we’re going to win.”
But the Bulldogs refused to give up. Four straight Braswell free throws narrowed the deficit to six. Cornell’s Mark Coury made one of two free throws before Morgan nailed two from the charity stripe. Peck countered with two more free throws, but Braswell struck back with a three-pointer. Cornell’s Chris Wroblewski was sent to the line with 55 seconds left where he made two free throws. But Morgan made two free throws and center Greg Mangano ’12 converted a layup. Then, with 12 seconds left to go and the Bulldogs down by two, Morgan drove to the hoop, made the shot, and drew the foul. He sank the free throw, and the Bulldogs left with a stunning victory.
“The coaches always tell us to keep playing until the end,” Morgan said in a press release. “We kept chipping away without time going off the clock.”
Braswell led the Bulldogs with 18 points. Morgan added 17 points and four assists. Mangano ended the night with 14 points, nine rebounds and five blocks. Ferry led Cornell with 18 points.
Jones said that the Bulldogs normally like to enjoy their wins, but with a game the next day, they had to refocus quickly.
Against Columbia, the Bulldogs got off to a slow start and allowed the Lions to take a 10–2 lead. But from that point onward, the Bulldogs would control the first half. Nine points from Mangano pushed the Bulldogs to a 13–10 lead. After Columbia’s Mark Cisco responded with three points, guard Sam Martin ’13 nailed two big three-pointers to give the Bulldogs the lead, a position they held for the remainder of the game.
Columbia closed in to make it a 21–19 Bulldog advantage, but the Elis embarked on a 13–0 run sparked by a three-point play from guard Michael Grace ’13. Yale would enter the half with a 43–27 lead.
But the Lions did not throw in the towel. Brian Barbour, Asenso Ampim and Cisco combined for 31 of Columbia’s 40 second half points and pulled the Lions back into the game. Seven and a half minutes in, Barbour converted a layup to make it 51–43 Yale. At that point, the game turned into a Barbour/Grace show with the two guards duking it out. A Grace layup countered another layup from Barbour. After Barbour sank one more layup, Grace responded with a tough jumper in traffic. Barbour came back with a jump shot of his own, but Grace drove and hit another layup.
“I took what the defense gave me tonight,” Grace said. “I think I benefited from Greg’s big first half. The defense was keying on him like all defenses do. Coach called a couple plays so that I could come off the pick and roll, and I got to the rack and finished.”
Two minutes later, a hard screen sent Grace to the floor and left Feldmann open for a three-pointer that shrank the Yale lead to 57–54 with 7:17 remaining. Grace was forced to exit the game, leaving the Bulldogs looking for someone to pick up the scoring burden.
“I was hurt,” Grace said. “I have a lot of confidence in my teammates, playing with them everyday in practice. They held their composure.”
Mangano, Morgan, Braswell and guard Jesse Pritchard ’14 all stepped up and had another double-digit lead with 3:07 to go. Columbia would close the gap, but with little time remaining, they were forced to foul. The Bulldogs made enough of their free throws and even though an Asenso rebound slam-dunk brought Columbia within three with 19 seconds remaining, two free throws from Morgan secured the Yale victory.
“That’s what you’ve got to do to close out games,” Jones said. “You’ve got to make free throws. And we have Austin and Porter; you expect those guys to make them.”
Mangano finished with 21 points, nine rebounds and 4 blocks in the winning effort. Morgan added 15 points and five assists, and Braswell contributed 13 points. Grace finished with 11 points on a perfect five of five from the field and one of one from the free throw line.
Barbour led the Lions with 19 points. Ampim had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Cisco added 17 points and eight rebounds. Guard Noruwa Agho, a second team All-Ivy League team member a year ago, had six points and six turnovers after being chased around by Reggie Willhite ’12 all night.
“[Reggie’s] a great defender. He shut [Agho] down,” Mangano said. “He does a great job on everyone that you put him on. He’s so athletic and so quick.”
The two wins move the Bulldogs to 4–2 in Ivy League play and fourth place in the conference standings. Princeton leads the pack at 4–0.
Next week, the Bulldogs will travel to Cambridge for a matchup with rival Harvard (16–4, 5–1) at 7 p.m. on Friday. They will follow that game with a game against Dartmouth (5–15, 1–5) at 7 p.m. Saturday night.