In a series that has recently been dominated by the home team, the Yale men’s basketball team made the trip up to Providence and asserted itself in emphatic fashion.
The Bulldogs (12–6, 1–0 Ivy) controlled every facet of the game Saturday afternoon en route to an 80–62 dismantling of Brown (9–9, 0–1 Ivy), snapping a streak of the home team winning the past four matchups between the two squads.
“I was telling my teammates on the bench that they can’t really comprehend how good this win feels,” guard Javier Duren ’15 said. “My past two years, every time we came up here to play Brown, we’ve laid eggs and it’s been terrible.”
From a purely statistical standpoint, Yale edged Brown in every traditional shooting category, as well as in rebounding, turnovers, assists, steals and blocks. For a Yale team with Ivy title aspirations, not much more could have gone right.
During no stretch was that more evident than a 31–11 run to end the first half that turned a four-point deficit into a 47–31 advantage, one that the Elis never relinquished.
Perhaps the only blemish of the day was the free-throw shooting of forward Justin Sears ’16, as he converted just 7–16 attempts from the charity stripe. A career 66 percent shooter from the free-throw line, Sears still poured in 15 points to go along with 11 rebounds as he notched his 14th career double-double.
“Justin Sears’s free-throw shooting aside, I thought it was almost a perfect game for us in a lot of ways,” head coach James Jones said.
Despite Sears’s inefficiency at the line, he still nearly matched the Bears as a team, as Brown converted only 11 free throws — on 18 attempts — while the Plainfield, New Jersey native made seven.
Although both teams displayed some understandable jitters early on during their opening weekend of conference play, Yale was first to settle down and played a very clean game overall.
Yale’s nine turnovers as a team reversed a worrisome trend of 15-plus turnovers in four of the prior five games.
“We handled [the ball] tremendously,” Sears said. “We’ve been focusing on that in practice. We’ve been running for turnovers so guys have a better sense of urgency when they have the ball.”
Yale also made its presence felt on the glass, outrebounding the Bears — who have two of the top four statistical rebounders in the league in Rafael Maia and Leland King — by a 45–37 margin.
Brown remains the top rebounding team in the league in terms of quantity, with 37.5 rebounds per game compared to Yale’s 37.2, but Yale maintained its lead in rebounding margin. The Bulldogs have outrebounded opponents this season by an average of 7.3 rebounds per game, a figure that ranks 23rd out of 345 Division I schools and is more than double the next closest Ivy team.
Jones credited the team’s rebounding prowess in addition to stout defensive play in making up for a middling offensive performance.
“We didn’t shoot the ball a great percentage, but shooting 43 percent is good enough to help us win if your defense is really good,” Jones said. “Our defense was really good, and we outrebounded a very good rebounding team.”
As far as the biggest takeaway of the weekend, Yale’s play at point guard makes a strong case. Duren controlled the game from the opening tip, registering his first career double-double with a 19-point, 10-rebound performance.
“I remember telling my dad, ‘Dad, I’m just never going to get a double-double,’” Duren said. “But that’s a tribute to my team. Even if I didn’t have the double-double, I’d still be proud of these guys. I’m proud of the way we played today.”
Duren’s play earned accolades from the conference, as he was awarded with his third Ivy League Player of the Week award, the most in the league for a player who is consistently building a case for Player of the Year.
In addition to a stellar performance from the senior guard, guard Jack Montague ’16 added 15 points while freshman guard Makai Mason ’18 stepped up and provided a welcome boost off the bench in his first career Ivy League outing. The slight guard from Greenfield, Mass. contributed 10 points as he reached double-digits for the fifth time this season.
“In the second half, [Mason] settled down and played like himself, and he was really terrific,” Jones said. “So when Javier Duren took a blow, the lead actually increased which was great. Because Javi was tremendous today.”
Jones went on to say that it was Duren’s best game as a Bulldog, high praise considering Duren has had a career of incredible performances, such as a 33-point outing in a CollegeInsider.com Tournament victory over Columbia last season.
Duren expressed how excited he was about the team’s performance, as well as his own in helping lead the team to victory, but pointed out success in the Ancient Eight demands a high level of play week-to-week.
“We came out from the start, and we played basketball like we know how to play,” Duren said of the Elis. “So the key right now, like every Ivy season, is to just be consistent.”
Yale will have the chance to build upon the strong conference start this upcoming Saturday, as the Bulldogs will have to fend off the same Brown squad.