Madison Square Garden has hosted many close games; Yale’s 70-69 overtime victory over Manhattan (3-2) Saturday afternoon proved no different.
With 6.7 seconds left in overtime and the Elis down 69-68, Yale (3-2) guard Alex Gamboa ’05 dished the ball to an open T.J. McHugh ’03 for the game-winning layup.
“On the last play, we were pretty much just going to get the ball to Alex [Gamboa],” McHugh said. “Then Mark [Lovett ’05] set a little back screen to free him up. I just drew my man and [Gamboa] just bounced me the ball to take a wide open lay up.”
The win marked Yale’s first victory ever at Madison Square Garden. Yale faces Holy Cross tonight in the first round of the Phoenix Classic in Hartford, Conn.
Manhattan needed some last second heroics at the end of regulation just to send the game to the extra session. With 2.7 seconds left in the second half and Manhattan down by three, Jasper guard Jason Wingate swished a three pointer to tie the score.
“Even after they hit that game-tying shot at the end of regulation to send it into overtime, we were still in it, and we felt that we should and will win the game,” Yale guard Edwin Draughan ’05 said. “It was basically our game to win until that point, and the fact that we were able to maintain a positive attitude even after their tying shot really helped us win in overtime.”
Yale won the overtime tipoff and quickly built a 67-63 lead. But Manhattan battled back, taking a one-point advantage before McHugh’s gamewinner.
“These guys [the Yale players] are battle-tested,” Yale head coach James Jones said. “They’ve been through a lot.”
Yale started the game with a fury, keeping Manhattan off the scoreboard in the first 3:13 while developing a six-point advantage. Just five minutes later, Yale built the largest lead either team would have all game after a three-pointer from captain Chris Leanza ’03 made the score 14-4.
“The first minute or two, we came out with more intensity than we did all season,” Draughan said.
Still trailing 31-22 with 1:47 left in the first half, Manhattan went on a 21-8 run that spanned the periods to put the Jaspers on top 46-39.
“We missed some easy shots,” Jones said. “To their credit, they stepped up, and they executed their offense a lot better in the second half.”
Yale mounted its own comeback, going on a 17-6 run to lead 56-52 with about four minutes left in regulation. McHugh led the Eli surge, scoring seven of his team-high 15 points in the final 6:13 of the second half.
“We got a little bit more aggressive when we were down,” Jones said. “It’s amazing what happens when you get your back up against the wall. I’m proud of my guys for stepping up and doing that.”
Forward Matt Minoff ’04 chipped in eight points, a team-high 11 rebounds, five assists and four blocks, two that prevented Manhattan dunks.
“[Minoff is] probably one of the best all-around players on the team,” Draughan said. “It’s not just his blocks. He’s a great force inside on offense, and he’s great at distributing the ball.”
Although Yale shot a dazzling 54.2 percent from the field in the first half, their 19 turnovers in the period kept Manhattan within striking distance. Overall, Yale’s 24 turnovers cost them 25 points.
Yale dominated the boards 40-29 but was only able to convert its nine offensive rebounds into six second-effort baskets. Manhattan did far better, converting its nine offensive rebounds into 17 second-chance points.
But most importantly, Yale dominated the free throw line with 83.3 percent falling compared to the Jaspers’ 52.6 percent. Yale’s consistent foul shooting, especially two key completions by Minoff late in regulation, helped put the Elis on top.
“We practice free throws pretty much every day before and after practice. To prepare for situations like [Minoff’s late game free throws], sometimes we’ll do it after we do a drill so that you practice while you’re tired,” Minoff said. “I felt comfortable coming out that I was going to make them.”
Despite suffering his first loss of the season, Jaspers head coach Bobby Gonzalez expressed his admiration for the Elis.
“If we were going to lose at the Garden, this is the way we would have wanted to lose: a hard-fought game against a team like Yale, probably an NCAA team,” Gonzalez said. “We knew they were going to be probably one of the best teams we were going to play all year on our schedule, including St. John’s and North Carolina. Yale is as good as anyone in the country. I take my hat off to them.”