Looking to put Friday’s loss to Quinnipiac in the rearview mirror, the Yale men’s basketball team dominated Newbury, a Division III school, in its home opener by a score of 97–51.
The Bulldogs (1–1, 0–0 Ivy) got off to a strong start against the Nighthawks (1–2, 0–0 New England Collegiate), with guard Jack Montague ’16 scoring the first basket of the game on a three-pointer, one of six threes for him on the night. The Elis looked to extend their lead early in the game, and two straight shots from behind the arc by guard Javier Duren ’15 put Yale up 15–7 less than eight minutes into the game. And once they started scoring, the Elis never trailed for the rest of the game.
“One of the reasons you play a game like this is to have an opportunity to see some guys in live action,” head coach James Jones said. “You don’t have that luxury during a lot of the games during the year, so thankfully we had that luxury tonight, and I thought that most everybody performed well and played hard off the bench.”
Yale went to its bench early, replacing its starters as the lead was pushed to 10, giving many underclassmen their first action all season. Three freshmen — guards Makai Mason ’18, Landon Russell ’18 and Eric Anderson ’18 — got their first taste of college basketball and recorded their first career baskets. With Mason running the floor, the lead grew to 13 points at the 8:49 mark.
Both teams then went cold for a stretch of over four minutes before a layup by forward Justin Sears ’16 increased the lead to 15 with 4:55 left in the half. Montague capped the scoring for the Bulldogs with a three as time wound down in the first half, with Yale leading 34–19.
“In the first half we kind of settled for shots,” Montague said. “We took too many outside shots instead of forcing it in the paint and working for our baskets.”
Jones was not satisfied with the effort shown in the opening period.
The coach said that in his locker room speech at halftime, he told the team that it was better than its current level of play and that he challenged them to go out and play.
“I thought we were really poor in the first half,” Jones said. “I didn’t think we played with enough energy and zest and togetherness. The second half was much different. We played like I expected us to.”
The starters returned to the floor to start the second half, and quickly doubled the lead, as a solid defensive effort kept Newbury from making a field goal for nearly three minutes to open the period.
Yale’s lead first swelled to 37 points three minutes later on an offensive rebound and layup by forward Greg Kelley ’15, driving the score to 61–24.
“We have a lot of space [around the basket] because we have shooters like Jack on our team, so when I found my opportunities, I had a lot of space, I just went up strong,” forward Sam Downey ’17 said.
Montague agreed, saying that a lot opened up after the Elis picked up their energy on defense in the second half. He added that defensive effort led to getting the ball in transition and to scoring buckets.
“In the second half, our energy brought upon our offense more points in transition and more points from offensive rebounding and in the paint,” Montague said.
Newbury could not find any momentum, and the lead never dipped below 32 points for the rest of the game. As underclassmen took over the floor toward the end of the game, the lead grew to 40 points with three minutes to go. Downey finished the game with an emphatic dunk to cap off the emphatic victory.
“I think that one of the things we want to work on is continue to think about our mindset going into a game, and getting ready to play,” Jones said. “I don’t think we were 100 percent ready to play the game … If that happens in a game where the opponent is more formidable, we might have a difficult opportunity to win. We want to make sure we are ready to play every day from start to finish.”
The Elis shot at a clip of 41.2 percent in the first half, and only improved in the second half, shooting 59.5 percent from the field. The Nighthawks managed only a 26.6 field goal percentage, with only one player making more than two shots from the floor.
Yale emptied the bench against Newbury, as 13 different players, from a roster of 15, saw game action, with all but two recording a basket. In a very balanced attack, only two Elis were on the floor for more than 20 minutes. Montague and Downey led the offensive effort for the Bulldogs, each notching 18 points on the night. Kelley made his mark on the glass, grabbing eight rebounds, five of which were on the offensive end.
“We have a bunch of guys that can help us win games,” Jones said. “We just have to put the right guy in the right situation.”
The game was part of the Men Against Breast Cancer Classic. The Bulldogs travel to Kent, Ohio to finish the tournament with three games in three days beginning on Friday at 5 p.m. against Illinois-Chicago.