William McCormack

Alex Copeland ’19 missed only one shot Friday night against Dartmouth, scoring 23 points on 11 of 12 shooting from the field.

In front of his mother, father and twin sister and playing against his father’s alma mater, the senior point guard became the 29th player in school history to score 1,000 career points, notching the milestone with an and-one floater in the second half. He scored eight of Yale’s first 13 points and led the Bulldogs (18–4, 8–1 Ivy) to a dominant 77–59 win over the Big Green (11–14, 2–7), in which the Elis shot a season-high 60 percent from the field. An assertive defensive showing limited Dartmouth to 37.7 percent shooting, giving the Elis momentum as they prepare to face Harvard in front of a sold-out crowd Saturday night.

“It feels really good,” Copeland said after Friday night’s game. “Obviously, it’s just a testament to my teammates and coaching staff. My coaches have had so much trust in me and faith in me, and that just gives me a lot of confidence. My teammates, for the past three years, have done an amazing job finding me but also adding to that confidence. It means the world to me.”

The senior guard has been remarkably consistent all year, contributing double figures in ten of the twelve games Yale has played in 2019. Entering Friday’s contest, Copeland needed 18 to score his 1,000th career point, and his 12.5 points per game ranked 13th in the Ivy League.

Copeland hit the career milestone with a play style that has become iconic over his four years with the program: nifty handles, shifty fakes, ankle-bruising step-backs, a pure stroke from midrange and an acrobatic demeanor around the rim.

“He’s always been a kid that can find a way to score,” head coach James Jones said. “He’s done a tremendous job for us, and I couldn’t be prouder and happier for him and the other seniors. Al and I share a smile at least once a day…the best part about what I do is share these experiences with these young men, who are just great. Al just makes me smile, and he laughs at me all the time.”

Offense flowed early for the Bulldogs, and the shifty Copeland, whose jab step dribble move almost sent Dartmouth guard Taurus Samuels to his knees, made all seven of his shot attempts in the first half, finishing the frame with a game-high 14.

Guard Azar Swain ’21 added scoring production, venturing beyond his usual perch from the arc. Although he did hit two three-pointers earlier in the half, Swain also scored in the paint, faking a triple and splitting two defenders with a pass fake for his first layup of the game. A deep, contested three-pointer with a little less than four minutes to play in the half increased his scoring total to 13.

The Elis also locked down the paint on both sides of the court, forcing Dartmouth’s star forward Chris Knight to shoot a measly 2–12 from the field. Even smaller guards, such as Copeland, Trey Phills ’19 and Swain, found layups inside.

“We’re a really balanced team, as far as inside-outside,” Swain, who finished the game with 16 points, said. “My job, most of the time, is to be able to space the floor and open up lanes for guys like Miye and Alex and Trey. So when I’m able to get shots, they’re able to get into the lane. It’s just a part of basketball. If they try to run me off the line, then I’m going to go by them.”

Although the Elis nearly surrendered their 18-point lead against Columbia last weekend, allowing the Lions to creep back into the game late, Yale sustained its scoring onslaught into the second half. Dartmouth never led, and Yale’s 40–25 advantage at the break expanded to as many as 26 in the second frame.

Copeland, who also dunked the ball twice Friday, scored his 1,000th point in a Yale uniform with 13:23 to play in the half. Swain entered the game after Copeland hit the and-one free throw, and teammates and coaches greeted the senior from Los Angeles with a sea of smiles.

A scout from the Dallas Mavericks, at least the third separate one from the team to watch a Yale game in person over the past six games, was in attendance, presumably to watch guard Miye Oni ’20 play. A scout from the Atlanta Hawks also received a seating assignment with the rest of the media. Oni finished with 10 points and a game-high 9 rebounds

In Providence on Friday, Harvard fell to Brown, breaking the Crimson’s streak of 19 consecutive wins against the Bears — a streak that dated back to 2009. Harvard heads to New Haven looking to down the league-leading Bulldogs in the teams’ 200th all-time meeting and second this season. Yale has lost five straight to Harvard in the regular season.

Cristofer Zillo | cris.zillo@yale.edu

William McCormack | william.mccormack@yale.edu