Courtesy of Yale Athletics
The Brown men’s basketball team will have one memory haunting it during the two-hour drive to New Haven on Friday: that of Yale guard Alex Copeland ’19 hitting a game-winning free throw last Friday night with just 2.9 seconds left on the clock. His last-second shot sealed the Bulldogs’ 75–74 win at Pizzitola Sports Center in Providence, completing the team’s 12-point comeback.
Despite coming away with a win, head coach James Jones got plenty of practice fodder from the team’s uneven performance. The Bulldogs (10–6, 2–1 Ivy) turned the ball over 18 times and shot just 26.3 percent from three-point range. The Elis performed best when it mattered most, however, as guard Miye Oni ’20 hit four consecutive ice-cold threes to close out the game. On the other bench, Brown (10–9, 1–2) must find an answer for forward Sam Downey ’17 and the Elis’ size advantage in the post if the Bears are to win in New Haven for the first time since 2010.
“We have to do a better job shooting from the perimeter,” Jones said. “We have to be better offensively in the first half, and … we have to continue to play without fouling.”
Bears forward Steven Spieth gave the Yale defense fits last Friday night en route to a career-high 33 points. The Bulldogs left the senior open from three-point range throughout the night, where he converted on seven of his 10 shots from deep. Spieth also got to the foul line with ease, hitting 8–9 from the charity stripe. Yale will certainly look to hone in on Spieth in a one-game weekend and not allow the marksman open from downtown.
While Spieth will be a tough cover, Brown also sports a formidable backcourt that will demand vigilant defense from the Elis. Guard Tavon Blackmon netted 17 points in last season’s 77–68 loss to Yale in New Haven, while fellow guard Obi Okolie scored 17 of his own last Friday against the Bulldogs to go along with a standout defensive performance that included a game-high three steals.
Meanwhile, Jones has several weapons of his own that Brown could not seem to handle last weekend. The Elis’ 6-foot-9 Downey towers over a Brown defense that does not start anyone over 6-foot-6, and the big man notched 26 points and 13 rebounds in last Friday’s contest. Downey dominated for long stretches, scoring eight points during Yale’s 13–0 start to the second half.
That run was just enough to pull Yale out of the 12-point hole it took into halftime.
“We definitely need to start the game with a higher level of intensity and set the tone early,” Copeland said. “We need to make sure we don’t let them get us away from what we do, and just execute our offense.”
Forward Blake Reynolds ’19 also attacked the Bears, scoring 13 points despite going 0–6 from beyond the arc — an area from which he had shot 42.6 percent this season before Friday night. By the end of the game, the Bulldogs had outscored Brown 42–26 in the paint, due largely in part to Reynolds and Downey slicing to the rim.
The Elis had made just one of their first 15 three-point attempts before Oni took over last Friday. Still, regression to the mean spells trouble for Brown this weekend: When Yale shot just 26.7 percent from beyond the arc against then-No. 8 Virginia in November , it responded two days later by hitting over 40 percent of its deep shots against Pittsburgh.
“We have a lot of different and talented players on the team,” Downey said. “A lot of them can make threes. If something’s not working we can go inside, and if inside isn’t working we can make some threes.”
Yale captain and guard Anthony Dallier ’17, who leads the team in assists and defends well with his athletic 6-foot-6 frame, battled foul trouble throughout last Friday’s contest. If the senior can stay on the floor longer and play aggressive defense, he will help limit Brown’s ability to get to the rim and draw fouls. The Bears lead the Ivy League in both free throw attempts and free throw percentage, adding 12 points in the teams’ last meeting.
The Bulldogs will also benefit from one of the strongest home court advantages in the Ivy League and Division I basketball. The Bulldogs have not lost in New Haven since February 21, 2015. Their 20-game win streak is the fifth-longest active streak in college hoops.
Yale tips off in hopes of its sixth straight victory over Brown at 8 p.m. on Friday at John J. Lee Amphitheater.