GAINESVILLE, FLA. — Playing its last game of the year far from home on New Year’s Eve, Yale rang in 2012 by falling just short of one of the country’s top teams.
Despite an impressive 9-0 start against No. 10 University of Florida (10–2) the Elis (8–4, 0–0 Ivy) could not contain the Gators and fell, 90-70 in front of 9,119 at the O’Connell Center on Florida’s campus.
Two days after starting slowly in a close loss at Wake Forest, the Bulldogs came out on fire against Florida. The Elis got consecutive three-pointers from Austin Morgan ’13, Reggie Wilhite ’12 and Greg Mangano ’12 to open the contest before the Gators responded.
Mangano said that the team emphasized starting strong. But the route to Yale’s quick start was not typical of the team. Head coach James Jones added that although Yale’s first four shot attempts against Florida were from beyond the arc, shooting had not been the main focus coming into the game.
“I tried to make the point that we were going to have to handle the ball,” Jones said about team practice on Friday. That focus seemed to pay off and Yale turned the ball over only 11 times throughout the game.
Despite the Elis’ early lead fireworks, Florida head coach Billy Donovan, whose team took the lead for good 5:13 into the game, said he was never worried.
“I liked where we were focus-wise,” Donovan said. “There are certain times when you are sitting there as a coach and it is nine-nothing and you are annoyed, but I wasn’t really annoyed because I thought we were playing the right way on offense. I felt like we were locked in defensively.”
The Gators responded to their early 9–0 deficit by rattling off a 29-6 run to take control. Although Florida would hold the lead for the rest of the game, Yale pulled within five points with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. But Gator guard Kenny Boynton destroyed Yale’s hopes of a comeback when he connected from long distance on successive possessions. His second three-pointer was part of a four-point play that pushed Florida’s lead back to nine. Jones was then called for a technical following a breakaway dunk by Florida forward Bradley Beal.
“I thought Bradley Beal had traveled,” Jones said. “I let the referee know.”
Trailing by 11 at the half, the Bulldogs closed the gap to 54-48 with just under 15 minutes remaining. But the Gators pulled away again and stretched their lead to 26 points over the next ten minutes. Although the Bulldogs hit nine three-pointers in the first half, Florida converted eight of its own in the second half.
The Gators also dominated inside, scoring 37 points in the paint. Eleven more Florida points came on the fast break.
Although the Bulldogs could not keep up with the Gators, they received an impressive effort from Mangano, the preseason Ivy League player of the year. The 6’10” forward tied Boynton with a game-high 26 points on only 18 shots and hit four of his six three-point attempts.
“Mangano is a terrific and unique player,” Donovan said. “I don’t think we’ll face another guy like that… I say this in a very complimentary way; he’s very awkward.” He added that Mangano combines the ability to create space fading away with physical post-play.
Mangano added 15 rebounds during the game, and Morgan scored ten points. Ten Bulldogs scored, but five Gators scored at least nine points.
The Bulldogs return home Jan. 3 to take on Holy Cross.