Despite strong play in both the opening and closing minutes of the game, the Yale men’s basketball team was unable to keep pace in last night’s high-scoring affair half an hour down I-95 in Fairfield, Conn.

Sacred Heart (3-5) used a potent offensive attack to down the Bulldogs (1-6) for the first time in program history and send the Elis home with their sixth consecutive loss. Six Pioneers scored in double digits as Sacred Heart shot a scorching 68 percent in the second half and downed Yale, 90-80.

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Already in this young season, the Bulldogs have developed an unfortunate knack of battling tenaciously for much of the game, only to come up just short during the final minutes.

As the frustration that comes with repeated losses sets in, team members said that though it is difficult to stay positive through this tough stretch, they must continue to learn from every game and maintain resolve.

“[It is] hard to find any bright spots right now,” head coach James Jones said. “We didn’t execute our game plan like we would have liked tonight. But tomorrow is a new day, and we’ll have the opportunity to look at some things in practice.”

For the second straight outing, the Bulldogs jumped on their opponent right from the opening tip-off and found themselves leading by a comfortable margin early. Yale used a quick nine-point run, punctuated by a forceful Matt Kyle ’08 dunk to pull ahead 16-9.

Unfortunately for the Elis, Sacred Heart then took control with a 17-3 explosion over the next five minutes and carried that momentum with them for the rest of the half. The Bulldogs displayed a marked inability to clamp down on the defensive end and found themselves in a 40-31 hole going into the intermission.

“We were very poor defensively,” Jones said. “We didn’t do a good job at all of handing our assignments. That was our biggest problem all night.”

Sacred Heart began the second half with all cylinders firing. Junior guard Drew Shubik drilled a three-pointer just nine seconds in, sparking another offensive flurry for the Pioneers, who turned a fledgling lead into an 18-point margin over the next five minutes.

But the Elis refused to lay down without a fight. Guard Eric Flato ’08 caught fire, drilling back-to-back three-pointers for six of his career-high 23 points, and the Bulldogs cut the Pioneer lead to single digits with 12 minutes remaining.

Sacred Heart maintained its advantage for much of the remainder of the game and found itself with a seemingly comfortable 13-point lead, 83-70, with less than three minutes left to play. But once again, the Elis refused to go quietly into the night. In perhaps their finest play of the evening, the Bulldogs applied solid defensive pressure, capitalizing on several forced Pioneer turnovers to fight their way back. Yale ran off 10 points in just over a minute, culminating in a conventional three-point play for forward Ross Morin ’09, and pulled within five points.

“We finally played with the intensity we should have played with all night,” swingman Caleb Holmes ’08 said. “We were much more active on the defensive end and got a couple of steals that allowed us to come back.”

But that was as close as the Elis would come, as on the very next possession, Sacred Heart answered with a three-point play of its own to put the game out of reach.

Yale returns to the John J. Lee Amphitheater for the first time in over a week and a half, when it will attempt to snap its current losing steak against American this Saturday.

“The season has been so up and down so far this year,” captain Sam Kaplan ’07 said. “At times we have played extremely well and at times we haven’t played up to our capability. All the teams we’ve played have been very well-coached and played very hard. I think our out-of-conference schedule is definitely going to prepare us well for the Ivy League.