The weather Saturday night delayed the Brown men’s basketball team’s arrival in New Haven, but the Bears certainly could not complain about the warm reception they received from the rims in the John J. Lee Amphitheater.
In a game that featured 57 fouls, the Bears (12-4, 3-0 Ivy) took advantage of their trips to the charity stripe, making 39 of 44 from the line, on their way to an 87-82 victory over Yale (10-7, 2-1). Poor shooting did the Bulldogs in, as they missed 15 of their 39 free-throw attempts while making only four of 26 3-pointers. The win gave Brown sole possession of first place in the Ivy League standings, with Yale one game behind.
“We didn’t play a lot of defense. We shot awful from the floor,” Paul Vitelli ’04 said. “But we still only lost by five.”
The Bulldogs shot eight points below their free-throw percentage of 69 percent coming into the game. Their 15 percent shooting performance from beyond the arc was their worst performance of the year. Yale was shooting 35 percent from 3-point range prior to Saturday night.
“You shoot your average, and you are in pretty good shape,” Yale head coach James Jones said.
The Bulldogs would have also been in good shape if Brown had shot its average of 74 percent from the free-throw line coming into the game, but instead the Bears shot nearly 15 percentage points higher.
Trailing by seven with 25 seconds left, 20 ticks of the clock elapse before Yale got a basket — a layup from Edwin Draughan ’05. Draughan then forced a turnover, and a Vitelli jumper narrowed the deficit to 3 points with one second left. Brown’s Earl Hunt was fouled before the inbounds pass and, like he and his teammates had done all night, he nailed both free throws, giving the Bears the 5-point victory.
Brown built a 10-point lead early in the first half and was up by nine, 67-58, with nine and half minutes to play when the Bulldogs made their push.
After a 3-pointer from Alex Gamboa ’05, the Bulldogs’ next bucket came off a heads-up outlet pass from Draughan to a streaking Matt Minoff ’04. Minoff missed a layup in transition, but Vitelli was there for the put-back to cut the Brown lead to four. Josh Hill ’04, who had a career night with 21 points, made a pair of free throws to bring Yale within two and then, after a Brown free throw, Vitelli nailed a three to knot the score at 68-68. Two more Hill free throws gave the Elis their only lead of the night, 70-68.
“Every time we made a big play, they made a big play,” Vitelli said. “They controlled our momentum change.”
The Bears responded to Yale’s 12-1 spurt with 8-0 run of their own to take a 76-70 lead with four and half minutes to play. Yale never got closer than 3 points.
It was Brown’s transition game that buried the Elis in an early hole. The Bears consistently beat the Bulldogs down the floor and ended up with easy baskets, building a 45-36 halftime advantage.
Brown point guard Jason Forte — the younger brother of former North Carolina standout Joseph Forte — was able to penetrate into the Eli defense at will on his way to 15 first-half points.
The Bulldogs knew coming into the game that Brown, the top scoring team in the Ivy League, liked to push the ball, but they did not realize how fast the Bears flew up court.
“They catch the ball and run,” Hill said. “We weren’t prepared at all for it, and that killed us.”
The Bulldogs did a much better job slowing down the Bears in the second half, but Brown then began its march to the charity stripe, making 26 of 30 free throws in the second half.
Forte finished the night with 21 points, one of four Brown players in double digits. Hunt, the league’s leading scorer, had a sub-par night from the floor, shooting three of 11 on field-goal attempts, but still scored 18 points by virtue of 12 for 13 free-throw shooting.
Hill’s 21 points paced four Elis in double figures. Vitelli had his seventh double-double of the season, scoring 16 points and hauling in 14 boards. Draughan had 12 points, and Gamboa added 10 for the Elis.
The two teams will meet again next Saturday night in Providence, R.I., to close out the season series.