Behind an otherworldly first-half shooting effort, the Yale men’s basketball team defeated Columbia 86–72 in a heavyweight matchup on Friday between the lone remaining undefeated teams in the Ivy League.
The Bulldogs (14–5, 5–0 Ivy) shot well from all points on the floor, notching a 61.5 percent clip from the field, a 55.6 percent mark from beyond the arc and, perhaps most significantly, a 77.8 percent performance at the free throw line, which has been a weak point for Yale so far this season.
Forwards Brandon Sherrod ’16 and Justin Sears ’16 led the Bulldogs with 25 and 27 points, respectively, and both shot at least 70 percent from the field.
“When Brandon and Justin are playing at that level, it’s very difficult to lose a game because they just dominate at the basket,” Yale head coach James Jones said.
The Bulldogs initiated the game’s scoring with a three in the corner from point guard Makai Mason ’18, though Columbia (15–7, 4–1) answered right back with a three from Lukas Meisner.
Four turnovers in the first four minutes of play hurt the Elis, but the few mistakes were quickly overshadowed by the the lights-out shooting that has come to define Yale’s Ivy League dominance. The Bulldogs ended the half with 10 turnovers, compared to just three for the Lions. Yale finished the game with 17 turnovers, 11 of which resulted from Columbia steals, as compared to just seven turnovers by the Lions.
Sherrod entered the game with a hot hand, having made 25 consecutive field goals, one shy of the NCAA record. He tied the record with a dunk at 16:05 in the first period, and surpassed it with a layup at 12:39 that brought the Bulldogs to within one at 13–12. He went on to make another three baskets before missing his first shot since Yale’s Jan. 16 win at Brown.
“There was no way I could come into the game thinking I wanted to get all my buckets at the rim and make them all in a row because I would’ve done a great disservice to my team,” Sherrod said. “It would’ve been very selfish for me to think that way, so as the game flowed … I was able to get opportunities … because of my teammates. I was really fortunate to be able to get those buckets in the flow of the offense.”
As of now, the NCAA record stands at 30 consecutive made baskets.
At the half, Sherrod led all scorers with 12 points. Last year’s Ivy League-leading scorer, Columbia guard Maodo Lo, paced the Lions with 11 points in the first half, displaying his ability to drive to the basket and finish at the rim. He scored 20 points in the first game against the Bulldogs last season, and 18 points in the 56–50 victory over Yale in New Haven last season.
Lo battled with fellow point guard Mason, who contributed 11 points in the first half. With three minutes left before halftime, Mason scored five consecutive points to extend the Eli lead to 38–31.
The Bulldogs added three more points before entering the locker room, as forward Blake Reynolds ’19 connected on a high-arcing three pointer with time running down to give the Elis a 41–33 halftime advantage.
When both teams came out after the halftime break, the Bulldogs continued to find the bottom of the net, extending the lead to double digits before the midway point of the half.
Columbia, however, remained within striking distance. The Lions went on a 9–3 run at the halfway point in the second half to close the margin to 60-57, as a three-pointer off the glass by Lo made it a one possession game with 8:33 remaining. A free throw from Rosenberg brought the game to a two-point contest with 6:44 to play.
“I thought our defense picked up at that point [when it was 60–58, Yale],” Jones said. “Maodo Lo is a tremendous player, and our guys did a great job on their shooters and getting out there and rebounding the ball and getting out in transition a little bit. We also got to the foul line, and that helped.”
Despite the Columbia run, the Bulldogs never relinquished the lead, and they took advantage of two fouls away from the basket, sinking four consecutive free throws between Sherrod and Sears. Sears added a three with 5:52 remaining to put the Bulldogs up by nine points.
Yale’s shooting dominance continued in the waning minutes, though Columbia began to send the Elis to the free-throw line. Entering the game shooting just 63.9 percent from the foul line, the Bulldogs were able to seal the game at the charity stripe down the stretch, making 28–36 total.
Meanwhile, Columbia struggled from the free-throw line, shooting just 11–19 from the line.
Despite pressing the Bulldogs with full-court pressure, Columbia was not able to threaten Yale’s lead in the final minutes, as the margin remained in double digits for the final 4:57 of the game.
The Bulldogs shot nearly 20 percent better from the field than the Lions, led by 27 points from Sears and 25 points from Sherrod. Sears shot 70 percent from the field, including 2–3 from behind the three-point line, after making only two all season long entering the game.
“Earlier in the game, [Columbia guard Jeff Coby] dared me to shoot it, so I took that as a personal challenge,” Sears said. “He said ‘shoot it,’ so I said ‘ok.’”
Mason also scored in double digits for the Elis, notching 17 points to go along with three assists.
Yale, now on a nine-game winning streak, will be back in action tomorrow against Cornell at 7 p.m. in the Bulldog’s final home contest for nearly three weeks, when Harvard travels to New Haven on Feb. 26.