After a tight first half, the men’s basketball team used a decisive run coming out of halftime to topple Hartford and end the Hawks’ five-game win streak.
Yale (6–2, 0–0 Ivy) defeated Hartford (5–2, 0–0 America East) on Sunday afternoon 69–57, while playing in the Bulldogs’ fifth game since Nov. 21. Sunday’s game followed a game against No. 25 Providence on Friday night, in which the Elis, unable to overcome a seven-point halftime deficit, could not complete an upset bid.
Looking to return to their winning ways, the Bulldogs faced a physical Hartford team, known for its tight defense that had allowed just 52 points per game on average following its season opener, when Sacred Heart scored 71. The Hawks arrived in New Haven with an impressive resume, having defeated both Dartmouth 53–48 and Quinnipiac 54–50 earlier this season.
“I think it took us a while to adjust [to their defense] in terms of what was going on,” head coach James Jones said. “Their ball-screen defense is really the main part of it, and they’ve shown a couple different things that they do … We needed to find out the areas in which we could expose them and it took a while to be able to do that.”
Neither team was able to control the game early on, with both struggling to put points on the board in the first half. The first period alone featured 10 lead changes, with neither side gaining an advantage of more than four points — showcasing the back-and-forth nature of the game. Heading into the locker room at halftime, Yale led by just two points, 27–25, but it was a lead that the Elis would not relinquish.
The Bulldog defense held strong to start the second half as Hartford faltered, and Yale went on a 13–0 run for the first six-and-a-half minutes, making eight of its first nine shots. The Elis’ momentum could not be stopped, and the team pushed the lead to 20 points, 52–32, with 10:45 to play.
“We had great energy,” Jones said. “The guys really shared the ball, they took care of it and we got good shots for everybody … It was the first time in the game where we got out in transition, and that really helped.”
Forward Justin Sears ’15 concurred, noting that the team focused more coming out of the locker room, and its physical defense keyed the 10-point run, which led to the win.
The game, however, was nowhere near done. With just over four minutes remaining in the game, the Hawks chipped away at the lead with their own 10–0 run, closing the deficit to single digits at 55–47. But eight points was the closest Hartford would get the rest of the way, as the Bulldogs took advantage of their opportunities at the free throw line to put the game away.
Sears led the way for the Elis with a double-double performance — 14 points and 11 rebounds — to go along with a team-high two steals and five blocks. Guards Jack Montague ’15 and Javier Duren ’15 and forward Matt Townsend ’15 all added double-digit figures on offense, scoring 13, 11 and 10 points, respectively. The Bulldogs also received solid performance from the bench, which added 15 points.
Collectively, the Bulldogs shot 46.8 percent from the field, 35.7 percent from beyond the arc and 71.4 percent from the free throw line — numbers that are consistent with the team’s season averages.
“I think that [Yale] is the best basketball team in the Ivy League right now,” Hartford head coach John Gallagher said. “They got a lot of answers for your questions … I think they played with great poise, great toughness.”
Yale has a tough week-and-a-half stretch ahead, with three straight road games featuring two ranked teams, No. 22 Connecticut on Friday and No. 16 Florida on Dec. 8. The Bulldogs head to Bryant on Wednesday to start the second half of their non-conference schedule.