The race for the Ivy League men’s basketball title just became a lot more interesting.
With a 75–63 win over Yale (15–6, 8–1 Ivy) on Friday night, Princeton (17–5, 7–1) snapped the Bulldogs’ 12-game winning streak, bringing the Tigers within a half game of first place.
On a night in which Yale made just one of 12 three-point attempts, the Bulldogs struggled against a deep Princeton squad that shot 40 percent from beyond the arc. Seven Tigers played at least 16 minutes, and four scored in double figures to avenge Yale’s 79–75 win when the two teams last met back on Jan. 30 in New Haven.
“I thought we had some open looks. It wasn’t like [the three-point attempts] were contested and we just missed shots,” Yale head coach James Jones said. “You’re going to play 30 games throughout the year, basically, and you’re going to have some games where you lay an egg. You just hope it’s not in a game that matters as much as this one mattered.”
The Bulldogs opened up a 7–4 lead, with the first five Eli points coming from point guard Makai Mason ’18. Although Mason demonstrated his ability to drive to the basket with a couple athletic layups in the half, he finished the period just 3–9 from the field.
Mason also knocked down the Bulldogs’ lone three-pointer, which came with 17:22 remaining in the first half. He was 1–4 from deep, while the Bulldogs were 1–7 as a group.
The Elis, true to form, displayed their proficiency on the boards in the first half, outrebounding the Tigers 18–13. Princeton did not get an offensive rebound in the first 20 minutes, while Yale built a 9–0 advantage in second-chance points.
However, the Tigers’ bench outscored the Elis’ 19–4, with Princeton freshman phenom Devin Cannady providing 11 of those bench points.
“[Cannady] is a huge addition for them, a great sparkplug off the bench, a kid who can come in and score 20 points,” Jones said. “That’s a huge difference.”
Though the bench play favored Princeton, Yale edged its opponents at the charity stripe. The Tigers fouled the Elis seven times in the first half, as compared to four from Yale, and the Bulldogs went 6–6 from the foul line. Meanwhile, Princeton did not take a single free-throw attempt in the period.
On the defensive end, forward Justin Sears ’16 matched up against Princeton’s leading scorer, forward Henry Caruso, holding him to eight points on 4–10 shooting from the field and 0–2 from deep. The Bulldogs had less luck containing Cannady, who sparked an 18–2 run in favor of Princeton that closed out the half.
Cannady started off the game-changing stretch with two treys and a block to tie the game at 27. Caruso, Spencer Weisz and Amir Bell then scored 12 points in the final four minutes to thrust Princeton into the lead. The Tigers carried a 39–29 lead into the half.
“I thought the last few minutes of the first half was the whole game,” Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson said. “It gave us a little bit of a kick going into halftime and also the blueprint for what we wanted to do going into the rest of the game.”
The electrifying run left the Elis looking stunned as they walked to the locker room.
Princeton shot 55.2 percent from the field in the first half while Yale shot 36.7 percent. Much like the two teams’ previous matchup, the biggest difference came from beyond the arc: Princeton made seven three-pointers compared to one for Yale.
Forward Brandon Sherrod ’16 scored the first six points of the second half, trimming Princeton’s double-digit lead before Cannady reentered the game. Sherrod eventually finished the contest with 18 points, tied with Mason for the most for the Bulldogs.
“A 10 point deficit isn’t insurmountable,” Jones said. “We got into it, we cut it to six several times in the second half, but we didn’t make good decisions when we were down by six. We could have put more pressure on them. We turned the ball over and took ill-advised shots at that time, and that really hurt us.”
The Tigers’ lead swelled to as many as 12 points as the team stayed hot from the three-point line through the first 10 minutes of the second half. Yale struggled to play from behind without sharpshooter and starting shooting guard Jack Montague ’16, who is not with the team, Director of Athletics Tom Beckett told the News on Wednesday night.
Without Montague, the team’s captain, the Bulldogs finished the night 1–12 from deep.
Sears tipped in a missed layup from guard Eric Anderson ’18 with 8:48 remaining in the contest to pull the Bulldogs within six points, though Princeton methodically built its lead up again to double-digits.
“Toward the end of the game, the last 10 minutes, it was easier to get [rebounds],” Henderson said. “I think we wore them down a little bit.”
Amidst a flurry of fouls from Yale, as Victor and Sears both picked up their fourth fouls prior to the two-minute mark, the Tigers relied on solid free throw shooting to remain ahead of the Bulldogs, making 13 of 17 attempts from the line over the final four minutes.
Victor wound up fouling out of the game with one minute left on the clock, and Sears finished with a double-double, contributing 15 points and 10 rebounds, though he only took two attempts from the floor in the second half.
Henderson credited forwards Spencer Weisz and Pete Miller with containing Sears, the reigning Ivy Player of the Year and two-time defending Player of the Week.
The senior forward, who is averaging 16.4 points per game in the Ivy League, acknowledged that the team has experience being in a tight Ivy race.
“It’s just one game. We were still in first place last time I checked,” Sears said. “We’ve been here before the past two years, so you just can’t crack under pressure. We have five more games to go so we’re just going to take it one game at a time.”
Yale looks to bounce back on Saturday against Penn at 7 p.m.