After Wednesday night, the Elis have to believe in second chances. Yale pulled down 12 offensive rebounds, but none was more important than one by forward Justin Sears ’16 with two seconds left that led to his game-winning layup as time expired.
Sears helped the Bulldogs (3–6, 0–0 Ivy) slip past Bryant (4–3, 0–0 Northeast) 64–62 on the road. The victory gave the Elis their first win in an opponents’ arena in four tries this season.
“We beat a good team on the road who had been playing well,” head coach James Jones said. “It should certainly help our confidence, but we don’t want to get overconfident.”
Jones added that he was particularly impressed with Sears’ performance as the freshman star played the game while battling through illness. Sears posted a career-high 20 points to go along with nine rebounds and two blocks. He accomplished all of that in just 20 minutes, as Jones said that his coaching staff was trying to keep Sears fresh for Saturday’s game..
On Wednesday, Sears said that he was focused on taking what the defense gave him.
“Their big guys weren’t trying to get many fouls, so I could be more aggressive,” Sears said.
Sears leads the Elis with an average of seven rebounds per game and is second on the team with 11.4 points per game. Guard Mike Grace ’13 said Sears plays beyond his years.
“Most of the games he’s played in, he hasn’t played like a freshman,” Grace said.
The game-winning shot was made possible when Bryant guard Joe O’Shea missed the front end of a one-and-one. Sears corralled the missed shot and passed it off to guard Javier Duren ’15, who found Grace racing down the court.
The senior captain made a move to the basket but could not get his shot to fall. Sears put the ball back in for the victory.
Grace said that no play was drawn up for him to take the last shot, so he was focused on giving the Elis a chance to win before overtime.
“I knew I had to get the ball on the rim whatever I did because we had only four or five seconds left,” Grace said. “Justin bailed me out.”
The Elis were successful inside for the entire game. Center Jeremiah Kreisberg ’14 had his best game of the season, although he is still recovering from back surgery, with 14 points on six of eight shooting from the field. The Elis outscored Bryant 42 to 30 in the paint.
Yale’s big men also gave the Bulldogs a decisive advantage with four blocked shots. Although the Elis have had trouble with turnovers this season, Yale committed only eight turnovers while forcing 15 from Bryant. The turnovers were not the result of unnecessary risks on defense, according to Grace.
“We were solid [defensively],” Grace said. “Coach always preaches to us that if we’re solid on defense, teams will make mistakes.”
Jones added that the Bulldogs will need to continue that effort on defense when they travel to face the University of New Hampshire on Saturday. He specified that the Wildcats’ big men — led by junior center Chris Pelcher with 12.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game — pose the biggest threat.
The Elis tip off at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday in Durham, N.H.