The Yale men’s basketball team hung on despite an unusually poor first-half shooting performance, ultimately beating Dartmouth 75–65 on Friday night to pick up the team’s 11th consecutive victory and seventh in the conference.
The Bulldogs (16–5, 7–0 Ivy) retain the top spot in the Ivy League while Dartmouth (7–14, 1–6) remains at the bottom. Despite the ostensible mismatch — the league’s only remaining unbeaten team against a team that had dropped four straight — the Big Green put up a tough fight.
From the get-go, the Bulldogs looked different than they had in their 6–0 start to conference play. Anthony Dallier ’17 started at shooting guard in place of captain Jack Montague ’16, who did not travel with the Elis for “personal reasons,” according to the team.
In the absence of Montague, Dartmouth began the game doing what Yale usually does best: shoot well and dominate the glass. After the Elis picked up the game’s first two points, the Big Green drained back-to-back three-pointers to take a lead they would not surrender for over 30 minutes of play.
Meanwhile, in contrast to the hot shooting that characterized the team’s last few games, Yale shot just 27.6 percent from the field in the game’s first half. From deep, the Bulldogs were 2–11 — an 18.2 percent clip.
Yale’s 27 first-half points, eight of which came from forward Justin Sears ‘16, marked the fewest the team has scored in a conference game this season. Despite the abysmal numbers, the Bulldogs entered the locker room with just a one-point deficit at 28–27.
The Big Green came out firing to begin the second half, at one point pushing its lead to nine points after a three from guard Miles Wright made the score 41–32 with 16:52 remaining.
But then the Yale defense stepped up, holding the Big Green to just six points during a 10:28 stretch in which the Bulldogs scored 24 points themselves. Point guard Makai Mason ’18 hit three baskets from beyond in the arc in that period, and by the time the clock hit 3:30, Yale had a 10-point lead.
After taking the initial 2–0 advantage at the game’s opening, Yale’s second lead of the entire game did not come until 7:14 remained in regulation.
Mason was key to the turnaround, coming back from an 0–7 first half to shoot 6–9 in the second, including 4–4 on three-pointers, en route to a game- and career-high 25 points. Without Montague adding depth at the guard position, Mason played for 39 of the game’s 40 minutes.
Sears used his six-foot-eight body to his advantage, notching 21 total points on an 8–18 shooting performance from the field. He also blocked three shots. Fellow forward Brandon Sherrod ’16 added 14 points on 4–9 shooting from the field.
The two played physically in the paint, which paid off: Three Dartmouth players, including two starters, picked up four fouls and freshman forward Evan Boudreaux, who led the Big Green with 21 points, fouled out with 47 seconds remaining.
Yale went to the line 35 times and sank 23 of its free throws, which proved to be a major difference in the game. Both teams shot exactly 23–53 from the field, but the Bulldogs limited the Big Green to 12 successful foul shots on 19 attempts.
In addition to Mason, three other Eli starters tallied 35 minutes or more, unusual considering Mason entered the game as the only Yale player averaging more than 30 minutes per game.
There is not much time to rest, however, as on Saturday the Bulldogs take on a 10–13 Harvard team coming off just its second conference win. That game tips off inside Harvard’s Lavietes Pavilion at 7:00 p.m.