The sellout crowd of 2,667 at Brown’s Pizzitola Center provided an earsplitting distraction for Edwin Draughan ’05. But the freshman calmly stepped to the free throw line, took four quick bounces of the basketball, raised his gaze toward his target and released his shot without hesitation. The ball swished through the net and Draughan repeated the procedure on the second attempt.
Draughan’s two free throws gave Yale an 80-77 lead with seven seconds to play against Brown. That margin became the final score when Paul Vitelli ’04 intercepted an Omari Ware pass outside the three-point arc and heaved the ball to the other end of the court as time expired. It gave the Bulldogs (11-7, 3-1 Ivy) a hard-fought, much-needed victory over the Bears (12-5, 3-1) Saturday night in Providence.
“This was do or die,” Yale head coach James Jones said. “It says what I have known all along — we are a very good basketball team.”
After losing to the Bears 87-82 at home the previous week, a loss would have left the Bulldogs two games behind Brown. The win, though, put Yale in a three-way tie with Brown and Harvard for second in the league with 3-1 records. Princeton is in first at 2-0.
“[Brown] was in first and that is where we want to be,” Draughan said. “If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.”
The outcome was in jeopardy until the buzzer sounded. Trailing 74-63 with a little over three minutes to play, the Bears made a run to cut the lead to six, 78-72, with one minute remaining.
With 50 seconds left, Brown’s Earl Hunt, unfazed by the Yale defender in his face, nailed a three-pointer to halve the deficit. After a Brown defensive stop, Hunt, who poured in a game-high 33 points, netted an off-balance, 18-foot jumper by to pull the Bears within a point, 78-77 with 13 seconds to play.
Six seconds ran off the clock before the Bears fouled Draughan. The 6-foot-5 guard had been struggling from the stripe, making only five of 15 attempts in the last three games, but he made those two count to seal the win for Yale.
The Bulldogs took control of a tightly-contested game with a 15-4 run late in the second half. Chris Leanza ’03 — who almost sat out the game because of pain in his shoulder — had four points in the spurt, penetrating into the lane for a pair of layups, saying so-long to Brown defenders along the way.
Leanza, playing in only his fourth game after recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, finished the night with 11 points. He made four of five field goal attempts in 12 minutes of work. When the 6-foot-1 guard, who did not practice all week, came out of the game late in the second half, he had to put a sling on because of the pain in his shoulder.
“The kid wants nothing to do but play,” Jones said. “He gave his right arm for us tonight.”
Leanza was one of five Elis in double figures, led by 14 from Alex Gamboa ’05. Draughan, Ime Archibong ’03 and Josh Hill ’04 all chipped in 10 in the balanced effort. Vitelli, the Ivy League’s leading rebounder, dominated the glass, hauling in a career-high 15 rebounds to go along with nine points.
Hunt’s 33 points upped his league-leading scoring average to 21.3 points per game. But Yale was able to shut down Brown’s high-powered transition game as well as smother freshman standout Jason Forte. Forte had just three points on one for eight shooting, forcing the Bears to rely on Hunt for their scoring.
“Most of our scores were on individual plays by Earl Hunt,” Brown head coach Glenn Miller said. “That is not how you win consistently.”
By contrast, the Bulldogs’ effort, with solid team defense, good rebounding and a balanced offense, was the kind of performance that can be very successful on a night-in, night-out basis.
Notes: The win was Yale’s 11th of the year, one more than the team had all last season — After watching Brown make 39 of 44 free throws in its 87-82 win in New Haven last week, Yale returned the favor, connecting on 23 of 26 free throw attempts in the victory — Mark Lovett ’05 returned to the floor for Yale after missing four games with a foot injury. He had two points and three rebounds in eight minutes of work — The win at Brown was Yale’s first in Providence since 1998 and gives the Elis a 4-2 record on the road this year.