Yale went into Hartford expecting a strong opponent in No. 18 UConn. What the Bulldogs did not expect was just the 10th triple-double in UConn’s prized history, keying the 80–62 loss to the nationally ranked Huskies.
Yale (1–1, 0–0 Ivy) was led once again by forward Justin Sears ’16, who put together his second double-double in as many games. His performance was not enough as UConn (2–0, 0–0 AAC) and guard Shabazz Napier, who registered his second career triple-double, one-upped Sears.
“[Napier] had a triple-double so that’s a pretty big impact,” said Yale head coach James Jones. “He did a great job at finding his teammates and making them better, and he made a couple big shots… He had a very nice game.”
Napier scored 14 points, pulled down 11 rebounds and dished out 10 assists. He is the only UConn player with multiple triple-doubles during his career as a Husky. His other triple-double came against Coppin State on Nov. 20, 2011.
Sears and company did their best to keep the Bulldogs within striking distance. Sears had 17 points on the afternoon, including two ferocious jams, one of which was a rim-shaking two-handed put-back that forced UConn head coach Kevin Ollie to call a timeout. In addition to his offensive output, Sears snatched 10 rebounds, eight of which came on the offensive glass.
Sears said he is still adjusting to his larger role and is still improving.
“The season’s still early and I’m still learning the proper times to step up,” Sears said. “We missed a lot of shots so our coaches were really big on chasing the ball. That’s one thing we can control — our effort.”
Guard Javier Duren ’15 also had a significant impact on the action at the XL Center, scoring 15 points and assisting on a team-high four baskets. Duren and Sears combined for more than half of the Bulldogs’ points, which was not enough against a Husky squad that saw four players score in double digits.
Early on, the Huskies were unable to break away as the teams appeared to be feeling each other out. When captain and guard Jesse Pritchard ’14 knocked down a corner three-pointer with 11:16 remaining in the first half, the score was even at nine apiece.
At that point, the Huskies received some much-needed foreign aid.
Forward Niels Giffey of Berlin, Germany, proceeded to hit four three-pointers in a row for UConn. When the shooting barrage was over, UConn had pulled ahead 21–12. Giffey would connect on one more three-pointer before the first half was over for a total of 15 points within five minutes. He would go scoreless in the second half, but the damage was done.
Jones said that a couple of defensive miscues allowed Giffey to take advantage of open opportunities after the Husky guards were able to penetrate and create space for the German sharpshooter.
“It took us a while to find out who Giffey was,” Jones said. “He shot lights-out, five-for-five in the first half, which was really the difference in the ball game. We didn’t do a good job at finding shooters on the perimeter for sure.”
Yale, which shot at a 54.4 percent clip on Saturday in its season opener against Central Connecticut State University, was unable to find its groove offensively on Veteran’s Day. The Bulldogs shot just 26.9 percent in the first half while UConn shot over 60 percent from the field and 75 percent from three-point range. When the teams entered the locker rooms at intermission, UConn had secured a 39–24 advantage thanks in large part to its hot shooting.
The 15-point deficit was in the same ballpark as the 17-point deficit that Yale managed to overcome against CCSU in its first game. But the University of Connecticut was on a whole other level compared to Central Connecticut.
The Huskies extended the lead to a game-high 21 points thanks to a three-pointer from guard Ryan Boatwright with 10:24 to go in the game. That shot accounted for three of Boatwright’s 14 second-half points after Yale held him scoreless in the first 20 minutes of play. The tandem of Boatwright and Napier makes for what many experts consider one of the top backcourts in the entire country.
In the end, UConn proved to be too much for the Bulldogs to handle. When Yale went on a 7–0 run to cut the lead to just 11 with 4:06 remaining, Boatwright and Napier answered with eight consecutive points to extinguish any hopes of a late-game Bulldog comeback.
“We knew Yale was going to be good,” Napier said. “Their big guys played tremendously good. If their guards had played a little better and helped them out, this game would have been much tougher.”
The Yale team prides itself on its size and ability to fight down low — but in UConn the Bulldogs simply ran into a bigger team, as demonstrated by the play of freshman seven-foot center, Amida Brimah. He r,
Yale will face a tough road test once more on Thursday when the Bulldogs face yet another American Athletic Conference opponent in Rutgers (1–1, 0–0).
Tipoff against the Scarlet Knights is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J.