UNCASVILLE, CONN. – Poor scheduling at the Connecticut 6 Classic delayed the men’s basketball season opener against Quinnipiac, but when it was time to play, the Elis weren’t ready.
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Quinnipiac stormed out to a nine point lead in the first three minutes of the game and went on to defeat the Bulldogs by that same number, 84–75. The Bulldogs were without forward Michael Sands ’11, who was elected captain for the 2010-11 season. It was announced on Saturday that he had withdrawn from Yale for personal reasons and will no longer be with the team. The Elis have not yet elected a captain in his place. Forward Greg Mangano ’12 led the Bulldogs with 20 points and nine rebounds, but he and his teammates couldn’t match the Bobcats’ Justin Rutty and James Johnson, who tallied 19 and 16 points respectively.
“All in all, it was a good effort, but we got down early in the first half,” point guard Porter Braswell ’11 said. “The whole game we were trying to come back.”
After the Bobcats won the tip, Rutty began the game with an easy lay-up off the glass. A Deontay Twyman three and points from Rutty and James Johnson gave Quinnipiac a 9–0 lead. For the rest of the first half, the Bulldogs and Bobcats went back and forth without any significant changes to that advantage. Quinnipiac never extended their lead beyond 12, and the Elis were only able to come within seven points. The Bulldogs trailed by 11 points to end the first half. Mangano was the tallest player on the court at 6’10” and used his height to his advantage, scoring 15 points and grabbing six rebounds in the half.
“Greg is certainly talented offensively,” head coach James Jones said. “He did a great job defending guys from time to time. He was the backbone of our offense.”
Rutty showed why he is the defending Northeast Conference Player of the Year by scoring six points to lead Quinnipiac on an 18–10 run to begin the second half.
Down by 21 with 13 minutes left, Yale struggled to chip away at the lead. Things did not get easier as Mangano exited the game with four fouls. With eight minutes to go, they trailed by 20.
“There were a couple ones that I should have avoided,” Mangano said of the fouls. “I just have to play smarter. Getting those fouls on any of our post guys just hurts the team.”
Despite being without their leading scorer, the Bulldogs refused to give up. They began applying full-court pressure and forced a few Quinnipiac turnovers. Guard Austin Morgan ’13 converted a three-point play and forward Jeremiah Kreisberg ’14 banked a shot in to shrink the lead to 15. After Quinnipiac’s Twyman answered with a field goal, Morgan nailed two more free throws.
But on the ensuing Bobcat possession, the Bulldogs suffered another blow when the Bobcats’ James Johnson swung his elbow into Braswell’s mouth. Braswell was forced to sit out for the next few minutes of the game.
“My front tooth got pushed up and back,” Braswell said. “I’ve got one or two stitches in my mouth.”
Despite losing last year’s second leading scorer on the current roster, the Bulldogs continued their comeback. Guard Brian Katz ’12 hit one of two free throws off the foul on Braswell, deemed intentional by the referees. An additional two free throws from Morgan and one three pointer each from Reggie Willhite ’12 and Isaiah Salafia ’14 shrank the lead to eight. With 2:30 remaining, Willhite added two more free throws to bring the deficit down to six. However, from that point on, Yale could not make any more progress. The Bobcats extended the lead to nine and the teams just traded points from then on.
“It’s hard to keep that going,” Braswell said of the Bulldogs’ late run. “When they started pulling ahead, it wasn’t because of a lack of effort. Just sometimes the ball bounces that way.”
Rutty, a 6’ 7” 255 pound senior who coach Jones described as a “monster” before the game, finished the match with a double-double, with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
“We knew going in what to expect from him,” Mangano said. “He’s just a good player.”
The loss marked the Bulldogs’ first chance to try out Jones’ new motion offense. The Bulldogs shot 42-percent from the field, and 24-percent from beyond the arc.
“We’re still getting the hang of the offense,” Braswell said. “There’s definitely a difference between practicing at practice and the game.”
Yale will get another chance tonight as they travel to Rhode Island to take on Providence at 7:00 p.m.