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Matt Townsend’s ’15 15 points helped the Elis to an 86–83 double overtime victory over Army in Yale’s home opener at John J. Lee Amphitheater on Saturday.
Matt Townsend’s ’15 15 points helped the Elis to an 86–83 double overtime victory over Army in Yale’s home opener at John J. Lee Amphitheater on Saturday. Photo by Blair Seideman.

The men’s basketball team began its break with a hectic four-game road trip before returning to the John J. Lee Amphitheater for its home opener this weekend.

The squad posted a 2–3 record over the stretch, capping the busy week with an 86–83 double-overtime win at home over Army on Saturday.

“To be able to win a tough grind-it-out game like that is nice,” captain and guard Sam Martin ’13 said. “It shows we’re growing. Being able to win games like this will be important when we get into the league.”

The win over Army (3–2, 0–0 Patriot) reversed a tough stretch for Yale (2–5, 0–0 Ivy) leading into the game. The team journeyed to Indiana to play three games during the weekend of Nov. 16 as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Although the Bulldogs recorded a 63–59 victory over Buffalo on Nov. 17, they dropped contests on Nov. 16 and Nov. 18, falling to Evansville by a score of 66–56 and to Western Illinois, 59–47.

Yet the Elis still had another game to play on the road before returning home. The team travelled to Vermont last Wednesday to take on the Catamounts (3–1, 0–0 America East) in Vermont’s home opener, a contest that the Bulldogs lost 65–52.

“We’re a young team. We’ve got high expectations, but we’ve had our growing pains,” forward Brandon Sherrod ’15 said.

After the 1–3 road trip, Yale returned to New Haven to play Saturday’s game against Army in the squad’s home opener. The teams were evenly matched throughout the contest. Although the Elis took a 21–12 lead on guard Michael Grace’s ’13 jump shot with 4:53 left in the first half, the Black Knights closed the half with a 7–0 run to cut the lead to two at the break.

Army carried the momentum from its run into the second half, amassing a lead of eight points on Dylan Cox’s free throws with 10:32 left in regulation. But Yale clawed back to tie the game and send it into overtime.

“It was all senior leadership,” forward Justin Sears ’16 said. “All three seniors started [against Army] and they led us.”

One of those seniors, guard Austin Morgan ’13, also led the team in scoring despite a rough shooting night from the floor. He made only three of his 15 field goal attempts but converted all 11 of his free throws to finish with 19 points.

None of those free throws were more important than the two that he attempted at the end of each period of extra time. With a minute remaining in the first overtime period, Morgan made two free throws to put the Elis up 75–73. The Black Knights’ Ella Ellis earned a trip to the free throw line 22 seconds later and converted both of his attempts to tie the contest and force a second overtime.

At the end of the second overtime period, Morgan and his senior teammates again executed down the stretch to help the Bulldogs to victory. After Ellis made two free throws with 43 seconds remaining to give Army an 83–81 lead, Martin converted a three-point jump shot 11 seconds later to put the Elis up for good. Morgan made two free throws with eight seconds remaining to bring the Eli lead to 86–83, and Army’s Josh Herbeck missed a 3-pointer with a second left to give the Elis the victory.

“A lot of guys made big plays. Everybody stepped up that got in that game,” Martin said. “There were 10 different guys that made key plays in that game.”

Both Martin and forward Matt Townsend ’15 put in strong performances in the first starts of their career. Martin scored 11 points and hit the go-ahead 3-pointer, while Townsend set career-highs with 15 points and seven rebounds.

The Elis will continue their season at home against Hartford on Thursday.

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