Led by clutch shooting in the second half from point guard Makai Mason ’18, the Yale men’s basketball team held off Princeton 79–75 to win its eighth consecutive game and retain a share of the top spot in the Ivy League standings.
Mason scored 15 of his 22 points in the final stanza, including a three-pointer with 1:06 left in the contest that pushed the game out of Princeton’s reach, as the Bulldogs (13–5, 3–0 Ivy) handed the Tigers (12–4, 2–1 Ivy) their first Ivy League defeat. The sophomore was complemented by the superb second-half play of forward Brandon Sherrod ’16, who scored 16 of his 19 points after halftime.
“I’m really impressed with the percentage that we’re shooting,” head coach James Jones said. “We really shot the ball well the last few basketball games, which makes a huge difference for us.”
In front of the largest home crowd of the season, the Bulldogs began the game with a quick start. Forward Justin Sears ’16, the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year, led Yale with six of the first 12 Eli points, as his team jumped out to a 23–14 lead midway through the first half.
Just as Princeton was unable to find an answer for Sears, a New Jersey native who entered the game averaging 23 points in his four starts against Princeton, the Bulldogs were unable to control Princeton forward Henry Caruso. Caruso rattled home a pair of threes in the early going en route to a 17-point first half. The junior almost single-handedly sparked a 12–4 Princeton run that cut Yale’s eventual halftime lead to just six, 38–32.
Yale also shot the ball well from deep in the first period, going 6–8 from behind the arc. Captain and guard Jack Montague ’16 scored all nine of his points in the opening period from three-point range, while guard Nick Victor ’16 was 2–2 from deep. Additionally, Mason finished the contest 5-6 from long range on a night in which the team shot 57.9 percent from three.
Sherrod, who entered the game without missing a field goal in his prior 67 minutes of play, opened his evening with an uncontested dunk on the team’s first possession. However, he played only six minutes in the first half half after picking up two early fouls. Partially due to Sherrod’s absence, the Elis were unable to secure a single offensive rebound in the first half.
According to KenPom.com, a college basketball analytics website, Yale entered the evening third in Division I basketball in offensive rebounding while Princeton ranked fourth in defensive rebounding.
Coming out of the locker room, the Bulldogs stretched the six-point halftime advantage to 16 following two made free throws from Sears at the 16:00 minute mark. During those opening four minutes, Mason knocked down a pair of three-pointers and Sherrod added seven quick points.
The Elis were able to reign in Caruso for much of the second half. The Princeton go-to man did not score until over ten minutes into the period.
“I think we gave [Caruso] too much space in the first half and [Justin] played a little closer to him,” Jones said. “It’s hard to do that for 40 minutes, to play like he played in the first half and hit those shots that he made in the first half. He’s a reluctant three-point shooter, he would prefer to drive, and you can’t really post up on Justin. He’s got too much size and length for [Caruso] to be able to do that.”
However, a combination of poor free throw shooting and turnovers from the Bulldogs allowed Princeton to make the contest a one-possession game with 1:26 to play. Following a pair of missed free throws from Sears, Caruso drove into the lane and finished at the basket to cut the Yale lead to 75–72.
In total, Princeton tallied 19 points off the Elis’ 15 turnovers. The Bulldogs also converted just 52.2 percent of their free throw attempts, lower than the team’s 52.8 percent shooting clip from the field.
Mason’s final three-pointer doubled the lead to three, but Devin Cannady, a freshman guard, banked a desperation triple on the ensuing possession to draw Princeton back within one possession.
Needing to make a stop, the Princeton defense forced a miss from Mason on a contested layup attempt, giving the Tigers an opportunity with the shot clock off to potentially tie the game. Princeton elected to go for a quick basket but a pull-up jumper from Caruso was off the mark.
Yale guard Anthony Dallier ’17 corralled the defensive rebound after multiple players got a hand on the loose ball, and he made the second of two free throw attempts with 15 seconds remaining to push the lead to four.
The Tigers were unable to convert on the following possession, missing a layup and then a three after an offensive rebound before the clock ran out, sealing the Bulldogs’ eighth home victory in as many games.
The Bulldogs will get to face off against another opponent undefeated in conference play on Friday, when Columbia comes to town fresh off a buzzer-beating victory over Harvard.