With five of 16 players sidelined with injuries, four games scheduled over a seven-day span and only one home game before winter break, the Yale men’s basketball team breathed a sigh of relief when the buzzer sounded at the end of the first game of a grueling nonconference stretch.
The Bulldogs (4–4, 0–0 Ivy) held off Delaware (4–3, 0–0 Colonial) in a Monday-night road game, 76–66, after a nearly flawless start to the contest. The injury-riddled Elis surged in front of the feckless hosts with a 30–4 spurt in the first half and ended up assisting on 23 of their 29 field goals in the game. The junior tandem of forward Blake Reynolds ’19 and guard Alex Copeland ’19 carried Yale with complete performances, notching four assists and six rebounds apiece in addition to 15 and 12 points, respectively.
Yale rebounded from its narrow loss to Vermont on Saturday to continue its up-and-down pattern to start the season. With two starters hurt, the Bulldogs have had to adapt to new roles on the fly, and the team continues to preach consistency as the nonconference schedule grows more hectic.
“We obviously haven’t been playing perfect right now,” forward Noah Yates ’18 said after the Vermont game. “Teams like Albany and Vermont both flirt with being tournament teams every year, so those are great games early on in the season to see where we fit and where we are heading into conference play. Right now, we feel pretty good about where we are. … We’re just trying to take it one step at a time, continue to grow each game and, hopefully in the next few games, we can kind of put it all together, play a full 40 minutes and come away with a win.”
Yale slowed down its breakneck output in the second half and was outscored 41–30 in the final 20 minutes. But the game was never in serious doubt, considering the Elis held the Blue Hens to just 25 first-half points.
In preparing for Monday night’s matchup at Delaware, Yale had the opportunity to practice at the Philadelphia 76ers’ training facility — and it shot like an NBA squad to start the game. Guard Miye Oni ’20 hit from downtown three minutes into the game for three of his team-best 16 points, and the Bulldogs made five of their next six threes after that spark.
Guard Azar Swain ’21, who is averaging 17 minutes per game in his first season, contributed two of those shots as part of a nine-point effort off the bench. But the Elis actually fired off a significantly smaller proportion of threes compared to their season average, as only 17 of their 55 shots came from beyond the arc. Forty-seven percent of Yale’s shots were threes across the first seven games.
Head coach James Jones attributed part of his team’s reliance on the three-ball to playing from behind, as in the Vermont game.
“You know we’ve been taking a lot of threes,” Jones said on Saturday. “A lot of it was in desperation at the end of the game where you put up more trying to get back in it. … When you come and try to get back in the game, that’s going to be a part of it. I don’t know that we want more than half of our shots to be from the three-point arc.”
Oni continued to direct the offense, attempting 10 shots in the first half, four more than the next-most prolific shooter. He scored just five points in the second half, though, and was called for his third and fourth fouls. Copeland and guard Eric Monroe ’20 combined for 14 points in the frame to compensate, as the Blue Hens inched back into the game.
Oni has been asked to do a little bit of everything for Yale, at times running the point while also seeing action in the post and on the wing. On Saturday, he volunteered to guard Vermont big man Anthony Lamb when Yale’s forwards faced foul trouble.
“I definitely feel like I am [stepping into more of a leadership role],” Oni said. “The juniors are stepping up, the other seniors are stepping up, everyone just has a bigger role to play this year, and I feel like everyone’s taking on their roles pretty well. We just have to keep going and coming together as a team.”
The Elis held Delaware to 7–23 shooting in the first half as they stormed ahead. After the break, guard Anthony Mosley poured in 19 of his 23 points and six of his nine rebounds — five of which came on the offensive glass — to narrow his team’s deficit. But the senior had little help from the bench, and the Blue’s reserves outscored Delaware’s 23–10.
With nine minutes remaining, guard Ryan Allen made a three-pointer to cut Yale’s lead, which had been as large as 21 in the second half, to 63–53. But the Blue Hens then went scoreless for over four minutes, unable to pull within single digits.
The Elis have a quick turnaround: They are set to host Bryant on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. at the John J. Lee Amphitheater as part of a doubleheader with the women’s team. They will then play four consecutive road games, headlined by a trip to Texas for a game against TCU on Saturday.
Steven Rome | firstname.lastname@example.org