In a battle to determine top dog, the Yale men’s basketball team could not withstand a strong second-half surge from Bryant. When time expired at Payne Whitney Gymnasium, the Elis had fallen by a final score of 72–64, snapping Yale’s humble two-game winning streak.
Yale (4–4, 0–0 Ivy) held a modest four-point lead at the halfway point, but a 15–4 run by Bryant to open the second half saw the Bulldogs from Smithfield, R.I., jump in front 42–35. The Elis scraped their way back to within two points but could never reclaim the lead.
Guard Dyami Stark led the charge for Bryant (6–2, 0–0 NEC). Starks, who entered the game averaging 23.2 points per game, captured for 22 points in spite of a difficult first half.
Yale head coach James Jones said he was satisfied with Yale’s defense on Starks for the first twenty minutes, as the guard managed just five points on 1–6 shooting from the field.
“We did a great job on Starks in the first half and a poor job on him in the second half,” Jones said. “He got hot and we didn’t do anything to cool him down.”
Forward Alex Francis provided an inside punch for Bryant, finishing with 22 points of his own in addition to a game-high seven boards. Rebounding, which has been Yale’s strong point in recent history, played a major role in the Elis’ loss.
After edging Bryant 17–12 on the glass in the first half, Yale got outworked during the final 20 minutes according to Jones. Bryant was even able to snatch seven offensive rebounds following the break after being shut out in that category in the first half.
The hosting Bulldogs struggled offensively, shooting 39.3 percent for the game. More concerning however was the production from behind the arc for the Elis — three for 21 from deep.
Guards Armani Cotton ’15 and Javier Duren ’15, who entered the game shooting a combined 40 percent from three-point range, each had an uncharacteristic game. The backcourt tandem misfired on all 13 of their three-point attempts.
Duren said that Bryant did a formidable job defending Yale’s shots on the perimeter and that Yale simply did not execute to the best of its abilities.
“All the shots we were shooting were contested,” Duren said. “They’re not normal shots that we’re used to shooting, you know, not setting up our teammates, and shots that [we] are not really used to having in our offense.”
Despite the poor shooting from long range, Duren still managed to compile 17 points, six rebounds and three assists — all team highs.
Duren’s performance was highlighted by a series of events with approximately seven minutes remaining in the game. After a missed layup by forward Matt Townsend ’15, who did score eight points off the bench, Duren flew into the paint and delivered an emphatic left-handed put-back dunk that awoke the dormant Yale crowd.
Duren continued the momentum when he forced a steal on the ensuing possession and capped off the spurt with a remarkable fall-away left-handed layup that left the Payne Whitney Gymnasium rocking. The mini run by Duren capped a larger 9–0 run by the Bulldogs that drew Yale within two points with 6:48 to go.
Duren acknowledged that he does feel added responsibility for how the team performs.
“There’s definitely a sort of pressure being the point guard, being the leader of this team,” Duren said. “When things go wrong, a lot of it falls on the point guard.”
Bryant responded with five quick points, however, and Yale was unable to draw itself any closer to victory.
Jones gave credit to Bryant and said that much of the loss could simply be chalked up to poor play on his team’s part.
“It’s hard to beat a good team when you don’t play well,” Jones said. “We had our chances, playing as poorly as we did. There wasn’t too much that we did right tonight.”
Forward Justin Sears ’16, Yale’s leading scorer and rebounder entering the matchup, got off to a quick start as he scored Yale’s first four points, keying a 6–0 Yale advantage to open the evening.
Unfortunately for Sears, foul trouble plagued his night as he picked up his second foul of the game with about 11 minutes remaining in the first half, which forced him to be substituted out of the game.
“I’m still learning with the new rules, with the hand-checking and everything, and how the refs are calling it,” Sears said. “I felt in the second half I wasn’t as aggressive as I should have been … It’s just a learning experience for me to figure out how to play with two fouls and three fouls and to just get better at it.”
Still, Sears managed 10 points and extended his double-digit scoring streak to eight games — as many as Yale has played this season.
Moving forward, Yale will return to action Saturday afternoon when they host New Hampshire (2–5, 0–0 AEC).
Action against the Wildcats will tip off at 4:30 p.m. in Payne Whitney Gymnasium.