Even in the most thrilling of basketball matchups, outcomes are often determined by the fundamentals.
The Yale men’s basketball team was reminded of that Friday night, falling to its crosstown rival, Quinnipiac, 88–85 in double overtime as part of the sixth annual Connecticut 6 Classic.
With an opening-season win just moments away, the Bulldogs (0–1, 0–0 Ivy) had a straightforward scenario facing them: Ahead by two with 42 seconds remaining in regulation, Yale needed to force a stop and limit the Bobcats to only one shot on the possession.
Yale made good on the first condition, as Quinnipiac (1–0, 0–0 MAAC) point guard Kasim Chandler misfired on a contested, mid-range jumper from the right wing.
As for the second condition, Yale faltered. The Bulldogs were unable to secure the weak-side rebound, allowing Ousmane Drame to grab one of his 15 rebounds on the night and convert on a lay-in despite a foul to square things up at 67-apiece — he missed the ensuing free throw attempt — which ultimately resulted in overtime.
Yale certainly still had its chances to pull off the victory on Quinnipiac’s home court in each of the overtime periods, but its best opportunity was that sequence of events at the end of regulation.
“The score is 65–67, and all we need to do is get a stop and we win the game,” head coach James Jones said. “We end up not only not getting a stop, we give up an offensive rebound and a put back and an and-one. We could have lost the game right there.”
In the first overtime, Quinnipiac carried the momentum over from extending the game into a quick start, opening with a 7–1 run.
With point guard Javier Duren ’15 having just fouled out — a disappointing conclusion to a career game for Yale’s floor general — it was guard Jack Montague ’16 who stepped up and drilled a clutch three-pointer with just 14 seconds left, giving Quinnipiac a taste of its own medicine and forcing a second overtime.
But without Duren, the Bulldogs didn’t have the firepower to come out victorious, despite forward Justin Sears ’16 scoring six of his 23 total points in the final 1:33 of the game. Sears’s production in crunch time was a welcome sight for the Elis as he suffered from a scoreless drought of over 30 minutes between the first and second halves.
Still, the box score revealed multiple bright spots for the Elis, such as Duren’s 26 points, which matched his regular season career-high, Sears’s double-double, and unexpected but welcome contributions from Montague and guard Khaliq Ghani ’16.
Ghani’s 13 points in eight minutes were especially noteworthy considering he played 21 minutes in total last year, scoring only four points in his seven games played. His bump in playing time seemed to come as a result of guard Nick Victor ’16 being inactive due to a PCL injury that will keep him sidelined for three to four weeks.
“Khaliq has done a great job in practice at working hard at making himself better,” Jones said. “He did a really good job to get himself stronger, and we expect him to help us going forward.”
But the most glaring numbers without question were found under team rebounding. Quinnipiac proved why it was the No. 1 team in the nation a year ago in rebounding as they snatched 54 rebounds compared to Yale’s 38.
“We were exposed rebounding the ball. That’s something we put our hat on,” Jones said of his team that finished atop the Ivy League in rebounding margin last season.
Friday night’s -16 rebounding margin for Yale is four rebounds worse than in any game the Elis played last year.
And when the Bulldogs defeated the Bobcats last March in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, the margin was just -10. More importantly, Yale allowed 13 offensive rebounds in the tournament thriller as compared to 22 on Friday night.
“It was tough … We didn’t lose that game in overtime,” Duren said. “We lost it in the first and second half, when we weren’t rebounding.”
That combination of inability to effectively hit the boards and the play of Quinnipiac stars Drame and guard Zaid Hearst — who put up a career-high 34 points and 11 rebounds — were enough to keep the Bulldogs winless for at least a couple more days.
Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore credited the play of Hearst, but not just for his remarkable night on the offensive end.
“I thought Hearst obviously was great on both ends. Duren has 19 at halftime, and we put [Hearst] on [Duren] in the second half, and he gets seven,” Moore said. “I think this win will look better and better as the season goes along because I think that Yale team is going to win a whole, whole lot of games.”
Quinnipiac also learned from its mistakes back in March, most notably in terms of defending Montague. In just 15 minutes of action in Yale’s tournament win, Montague knocked down three of four three-point attempts as a major spark plug off the bench.
With Montague in the starting lineup on Friday, the speedy Chandler was within arm’s reach of Montague all night, limiting him to just three three-point attempts in 44 minutes of playing time.
The Bulldogs had the weekend to shake off the disappointing result and now have their collective attention turned towards tonight’s home-opener against Division-III opponent, Newbury College (1–1, 0–0 NECC).
Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. at John J. Lee Amphitheater. It will be the first game of the Men Against Breast Cancer Classic.