It was a nail-biter late in Providence as the Yale men’s basketball team visited Brown in its third game of the Ivy League season. To avoid falling to the bottom half of the Ancient Eight standings, Yale turned to forward Sam Downey ’17 and guard Miye Oni ’20 late in a dramatic one-point victory.
The Bulldogs (10–6, 2–1 Ivy) trailed by 12 entering halftime, but mounted a comeback in the final 20 minutes. Despite 33 points from Brown (10–9, 1–2) forward Steven Spieth, Yale still prevailed 75–74. Downey provided 26 in the winning effort and Oni hit four three-point shots in the final four minutes.
“[Downey] was tremendous,” head coach James Jones said. “He was the reason we got back in the game. They play a small lineup so their advantage is to have Spieth at the four and our advantage is to have [Downey] at the five.”
Yale struggled to contain the fast-paced Brown offense in the first half. The Bears took a 40–28 lead into halftime thanks to 15 points from Spieth and 11 from guard Obi Okolie, who finished with 18. Spieth, the brother of professional golfer Jordan Spieth, connected on 4–5 three pointers in the first half.
Despite holding Yale to just 28 points and 12.5 percent shooting from three-point range, cracks emerged in the Brown defense that the Bulldogs would exploit in the second half. The Elis had a size advantage inside against a Brown team that started four guards.
Yale out-rebounded the Brown 24–15 in the first 20 minutes, and Downey and forward Blake Reynolds ’19 combined for 17 of Yale’s 28 first-half points. The Bulldogs dominated on the block all night, outscoring Brown 42–26 in the paint.
“I thought we could beat then in the interior,” Downey said. “They are a good team but they play four guards so it’s an advantage down low. It felt good to finally get some shots to fall down there.”
Turnovers may have made the greatest difference between the halves. Yale gave away the ball 14 times in the first half compared to just two Brown turnovers in the first 20 minutes. But the Bulldogs committed just four turnovers in the second half, while their defense forced seven by the Bears.
Returning from the locker room with more energy, the Bulldogs started the second half on a 13–0 run to take a 41–40 lead. Brown did not make a field goal for the first seven minutes of the second half while Downey dropped eight points in that period.
Yale, a team that thrived shooting the ball from deep early this season, struggled on Friday night from three-point range. The Bulldogs made just 1–15 of their three-point attempts before Oni hit two straight with under four minutes to play to pull the Elis ahead 65–63.
Spieth answered with an and one and a three pointer of his own to put the Bears up 69–67, but then Oni struck again. The Yale freshman hit another two threes, one with 56 seconds to play and another with 29 to put the Bulldogs up by four.
“Yale played really well in the second half and they certainly beat us inside,” Brown head coach Mike Martin said. “The few threes they got at the end were inside out, off kickouts from the low post. We did a pretty good job defending the three-point line for most of the game.”
Spieth and the Bears clawed their way back in the game, but guard Alex Copeland ’19 drove the lane and drew a foul with 2.9 seconds to play. After clanging the first free throw off the front rim, Copeland swished the second one to give Yale a one-point lead. Brown missed a last-second three to win the game, and Yale prevailed 75–74.
The two teams will have a rematch next Friday night in New Haven at 8 p.m.