After a long preseason of practice, the Bulldogs were pleased to open the season with a 73–69 comeback victory over Central Connecticut State University in the annual 2011 Connecticut 6 Classic series at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Although the Bulldogs went into the break down 30–34, Yale came out strong and went on a 16–1 run in the first six minutes of the second half to take control of the game. Forward Greg Kelley ’14 said that the senior class helped the team to overcome its first-half deficit and win.
“The senior class really stepped it up,” Kelley said. “They set the tone.”
Head coach James Jones said that although Central Connecticut’s full-court pressure led to 18 turnovers, the Bulldogs were able to break the press, leading to easy points.
“When we were able to handle the pressure it created golden opportunities,” Jones said.
Jones and Kelley said that one of the team’s problems in the first half was that it did not rebound the ball effectively. Kelley added that this allowed the Blue Devils to take too many easy shots, but the team corrected this mistake at halftime by making sure that all five players on the court crashed the defensive boards.
Forward Greg Mangano ’12 led the team with 23 points and 13 boards. Captain Reggie Willhite ’12 scored 21 points to go along with six rebounds, five assists and six steals.
Jones also pointed out that Central Connecticut got more rebounding opportunities because it did not have as high a shooting percentage as Yale did. The Bulldogs shot 45.8 percent from the floor, whereas the Blue Devils managed only 36.1 percent.
Jones and guard Mike Grace ’14 both stated that the key to the game was defense. Grace and Jones added that Willhite was able to shut down Central Connecticut guard Robby Ptacek. Although Ptacek averaged 14.9 points last year, Willhite held him to 3–8 shooting and just seven points.
“The defense Reggie played on Ptacek completely took him out of the game,” Grace said.
Central Connecticut senior Ken Horton, last year’s Northeast Conference Player of the Year, scored 21 points for the Blue Devils, but he shot only 1–8 from beyond the arc. Kelley said that the Bulldogs were able to contest Horton’s shots so that he did not get easy looks from three-point range.
Although Jones said that winning one game does not have a large impact on the season overall, Kelley stated that the victory will help the Bulldogs as they move into the rest of the season.
Yale plays Tuesday at Quinnipiac University at 7 p.m.