In front of a packed home crowd, the Yale men’s basketball team moved to 11–0 at home by securing a 59–50 victory over rival Harvard, completing its first season sweep over the Crimson since the 2007–08 season.
The Bulldogs (19–6, 10–1 Ivy) held Harvard’s leading scorer, center Zena Edosomwan, to zero points. The Crimson (11–16, 3–8) shot 40 percent from the field, only got to the free-throw line five times and was outrebounded 37–29 by Yale. With the victory, the Elis maintain a half-game advantage over Princeton at the top of the Ivy League.
“We pride ourselves on three things: rebounding, defending and sharing the ball,” Yale head coach James Jones said. “If you look at the stat sheet, you can go check-check-check in those three spots. We did a great job at all three of them tonight and that helped us win the basketball game.”
In an attempt to slow an Eli offense that features two double-digit scorers down low in forwards Justin Sears ’16 and Brandon Sherrod ’16, the Crimson started the contest in a 2–3 defensive zone, but the Bulldogs, who rediscovered their perimeter shooting after recent struggles, took advantage of the strategy. After making 11.1 percent of its three-point attempts in the previous two games, Yale shot 55.6 percent from beyond the arc in the first half.
Point guard Makai Mason ’18 paced all scorers with 11 points in the first half, nine of which came from three-pointers. He entered the game 3–12 from downtown in the past three games, making one trey each game, but the sophomore reversed that trend on Friday with 3–5 shooting from deep in the first frame alone.
In addition to Mason, guard Nick Victor ’16 also finished with a strong first half. His five rebounds tied Sherrod for most in the period, and he had seven points on 3–5 shooting from the field. His final points of the frame came on an emphatic alley-oop with 6:32 remaining in the frame, a thunderous slam that brought the occupants of John J. Lee Amphitheater to their feet.
Victor’s alley-oop came in the middle of a 9–0 Yale run that spanned nearly five and a half minutes. Solid play from guard Trey Phills ’19, who came off the bench to relieve starting guard Anthony Dallier ’17, also contributed to the run. In six minutes of first-half play, Phills scored five points and recorded one steal.
“You got to give some guys some rest, and I think Phills is an energy guy and he showed that tonight,” Jones said. “He’s earned an opportunity to play more. As a freshman, it takes a while sometimes to figure it out, but in our practices the last few weeks, he’s figured it out and done a much better job. He, like everybody else who plays, has earned his time.”
In part due to that 9–0 stretch, Yale led 36–22 at halftime.
The Crimson found itself in foul trouble from nearly the beginning of the game, as Edosomwan picked up two fouls in the first four minutes. He ultimately played just five minutes in the first half and seven in the second, finishing 0–5 from the field.
“I only guarded [Edosomwan] for two or three possessions,” Sears said. “The credit goes to Sam [Downey ’17] and Brandon [Sherrod]. They did a great job [against Edosomwan]. I think they can guard anyone in the league.”
Edosomwan’s backup, forward Chris Egi, fouled out with roughly five minutes left in the game, leaving the Crimson depleted in the frontcourt. Harvard did not pick up an offensive rebound in the first 36 minutes of the game.
Patrick Steeves came off the bench to lead Harvard with 16 points, nine of which came in the first half.
Steeves hit a three pointer with 10:00 remaining in the second half to cap off a 9–0 run that pulled the Crimson within single digits, but Mason answered back with a three-pointer of his own to keep the Bulldogs safely ahead.
Mason paced the Bulldogs with 16 points, and he was one of three Yale starters to finish in double-digit scoring. Sears finished with 12 points, and Sherrod notched 11 points. Victor, who tallied 11 rebounds, was one point shy of a double-double.
The game was the Bulldogs’ first at home without former captain Jack Montague ’16. He has been withdrawn from the University since Feb. 10, and Yale’s sports publicity office announced on Wednesday that he will not return to the basketball team.
The team took the court wearing gray T-shirts bearing the guard’s nickname and jersey number on the back and “Yale” spelled backwards with inverted letters on the front. Montague’s nickname — “Gucci” — occasionally broke out as a chant in the student section throughout the game.
Yale was not the only one missing a guard: starting Crimson point guard Tommy McCarthy did not play due to a concussion sustained in practice. The freshman is averaging 8.8 points per game and is shooting 35.7 percent from deep. Corbin Miller started in his place, notching seven points in 35 minutes.
The Bulldogs will be back in action Saturday night at 8 p.m. against Dartmouth. The Big Green dropped a close 84–83 decision to Brown on Friday.