On Friday night, the Bulldogs came out on the wrong end of a one-point game at Cornell, but captain Reggie Willhite ’12 made sure that did not happen again at Columbia on Saturday.
Willhite scored 24 points, including the game-winning lay-up, with 13.4 seconds to play, as the Elis came back to stun Columbia 59–58 a day after a disappointing 85–84 overtime loss to Cornell (10–12, 5–3 Ivy).
The Lions (14-10, 3-5) led 51–30 with 11:30 remaining in the second half, but the Bulldogs (16-6, 6-2 Ivy) outscored Columbia 29–7 the rest of the way.
“[Head coach James Jones] kept telling us we weren’t going to get it all back in one possession,” forward Brandon Sherrod ’15 said. “[Jones said] we have to keep chipping away.”
Forward Greg Mangano ’12 had not made a field goal before the run, but his three followed one of Willhite’s seven steals to cut the deficit to 55–50 with under five minutes left, forcing a Columbia timeout. Columbia’s Meiko Lyles hit a triple to come out of the timeout, but that would be the Lions’ final basket of the evening.
Willhite cut through the Columbia defense all night long, and he hit two more baskets after the timeout before guard Jesse Pritchard ’14 hit the biggest shot of his career from beyond the arc with 36 seconds left, making for a one-point ball game. Pritchard said that his mind was clear when he pulled the trigger on the three.
“I wasn’t really thinking,” Pritchard said. “When I caught the ball I just got my feet set and knocked it down.”
The Lions did not appear to have the same ice running through their veins. After Willhite’s basket, senior forward Blaise Staab went to the free throw line with 3.2 seconds until the final buzzer, but the pressure got to him, and he missed both attempts.
The Bulldogs got the miss that they needed against Columbia, but Cornell guard Jonathan Gray seemingly could not miss Friday night as he scored a career-high 29 points to upend the Elis in Ithaca.
“He was hot,” Sherrod said. “He really wasn’t missing anything. Every shot was nothing but net.”
Gray connected from downtown with 12 seconds left in regulation to give Cornell a 71–69 lead after being down by as many as 13 points. Bulldog guard Austin Morgan ’13 forced overtime with a lay-up, but two more threes from Gray and a free throw sunk the Elis’ victory chances.
Morgan scored a team-high 22 points and all five Bulldog starters scored at least nine points.
Yale had fallen two games behind No. 21 Harvard (21-3, 7-1) with the loss to Cornell, but Harvard fell 70–62 at Princeton Saturday. The Elis are now one game behind the Ancient Eight-leading Cantabs as they prepare to clash in Cambridge Feb. 18.
“We got embarrassed [the last time Yale played Harvard],” Sherrod said. “We want revenge.”
Sherrod added, however, that the Elis have to take each game one at a time. Morgan agreed with his younger teammate, stressing the importance of not looking ahead.
“We’re mostly thinking about Dartmouth,” Morgan said. “The next day we’ll think about Harvard.”
The Bulldogs travel next to Hanover, N.H. on Feb. 17 to face Dartmouth.