The Yale men’s basketball team opened its home season against Lehigh Thursday night in an exciting fashion, jumping out to an early lead against the Mountain Hawks, faltering in the second half but prevailing 89–81 in overtime.
The Elis (2–0, 0–0 Ivy) relied on a balanced scoring attack, with five players registering double figures. Despite the two-time reigning Patriot League Player of the Year and big man Tim Kempton tallying 30 points and 11 rebounds for the Mountain Hawks (0–2, 0–0 Patriot), Yale’s defense made several stops in the second half and overtime to seal the victory and, four days after a win over the University of Washington, a 2–0 start to the season.
“The best part of our team through these first two games is that we’ve gotten contributions from everybody in both games,” head coach James Jones said. “When you get contributions like that off the bench, it makes your team that much better.”
Yale led Lehigh by as many as nine points in the first half, but Kempton and guard Kyle Leufroy combined for 23 points in the second half to give the Mountain Hawks a seven-point lead with just over three minutes to play in regulation. Yale went on a 9–2 run to close out regulation, with forward Blake Reynolds ’19 scoring five of those points and guard Alex Copeland ’19 getting a layup to tie the game with 26 seconds to play.
The Bulldogs had a chance to win in the final seconds when Lehigh committed a technical foul for trying to call a timeout when the team had none remaining. However, forward Sam Downey ’17 missed the potential game-winning technical free throw to force overtime.
Downey made up for the miss in the extra period, scoring four points in the bonus five minutes that included a pair of clutch free throws.
“I definitely have a little bit of a chip on my shoulder,” Downey said. “I have something to prove because it’s my last year playing basketball.”
Copeland led the Bulldogs with 20 points in 28 minutes off the bench, and led all players with six points in overtime. Yale’s task was made easier when Kempton fouled out with 1:23 remaining in the extra frame.
Guard Miye Oni ’20 followed up his team-leading 24 points against Washington with 13 on Thursday against Lehigh. He also led the Elis in rebounds with 10 boards, following his six against the Huskies. Oni and Copeland were not the only young guns to get on the scoreboard, as Reynolds also contributed 13 points.
The senior class also performed in the home opener. Downey scored 17 points on 7–20 shooting, while captain and guard Anthony Dallier ’17 tallied 12 points and a game-high seven assists.
Yale battled foul trouble throughout the night, as Reynolds, Downey, Oni and forward Austin Williams ’20 all picked up four fouls with precious time remaining in the game. The first three saw considerable time facing potential removal from the contest.
Although Kempton scored a career-high 30 points, Yale held its own in the low post. The Bulldogs outscored Lehigh 40–36 in the paint and captured just two fewer rebounds than the Mountain Hawks.
“We need to have better execution toward end-of-game situations,” Lehigh coach Brett Reed said. “It was turnovers, missing wide-open people [and] taking bad shots that destroyed us when we need to be able to convert on offense.”
Lehigh is now winless in its first two games, as the Mountain Hawks lost their season opener 84–81 to No. 11 Xavier.
Yale’s next nonconference matchup will come against No. 8 Virginia, its highest-ranked opponent of the season, on Sunday at 1 p.m. in Charlottesville, Virginia.