MEN’S BASKETBALL: In Ivy Madness final, No. 2 Yale leads No. 1 Harvard 43–42 at halftime
Harvard’s Bryce Aiken drops 21 points in a tight first half.
The Bulldogs’ three pillars — defending, rebounding and sharing the ball — were on full display early in the first period, but Harvard guard Bryce Aiken made six of his 10 field goal attempts to bring the Crimson back into this afternoon’s Ivy Madness final.
No. 2 Yale (21–7, 10–4 Ivy) shot 61 percent from the field in another offensive start to Ivy Madness competition, capitalizing on strong ball movement and an early advantage on the boards to jump to a 31–21 lead over No. 1 Harvard (18–10, 10–4) with a little more than seven minutes to play. But seven first-half three-pointers and Aiken’s scoring dominance launched Harvard back into the game, leading to a back-and-forth finish to the first period. No other Crimson player has more than five points, while perfect shooting from forward Blake Reynolds ’19, 19 strong minutes from guard Alex Copeland ’19 and contributions from Ivy League Player of the Year guard Miye Oni ’20 allowed the trio to combine for 29 first-half points.
Although the public address announcer declared No. 2 Yale the visiting team as he introduced starting lineups, the Elis entered the contest playing energized defense with a loud crowd in their support. Guard Trey Phills ’19, defending Aiken, drew an early offensive foul on the Harvard star, and Yale continued to harass Harvard offenders, tallying two steals in less than five minutes. Six of the Bulldogs’ first eight points followed Crimson turnovers.
Staying true to its typical gameplan, the Elis attacked the inside early — six of their first eight points also came in the paint. Reynolds made the most of his opportunities inside, ending the half with 10 points after shooting a perfect 5–5 from the field. And with their presence established down low, Yale’s shooters found space for successful attempts. Guard Azar Swain ’21 drained a deep three-pointer and hit another triple just 60 seconds later, while Copeland followed up the two deep bombs with a mid-range jumper.
As expected, Aiken took the reins for the Crimson. High ball screens allowed him to swerve his way inside the three-point arc. With a tight handle, the unanimous first-team All-Ivy selection freed himself for several mid-range looks, one of which he scored as Phills fouled him from behind. Aiken finished the half with 21 points, two rebounds and two assists.
Yale’s ball movement complemented a strong shooting mark of 17-for-28 from the field. The Elis assisted on two more first-half baskets than their rivals while collecting 10 defensive rebounds on the other end. With a little more than seven minutes to go, the Bulldogs had amassed a ten-point lead at 31–21. But after a media timeout, first-year forward Kale Catchings, Aiken and forward Danilo Djuricic all hit threes to narrow the deficit. Harvard took its first lead of the game thanks to free throws from Aiken with just over three minutes remaining in the period before buckets from Reynolds lifted Yale to a slim advantage.
Yale adopted a 1-3-1 zone on one of Harvard’s final possessions of the half, putting 6-foot-9 Bruner at the top of the key to add shot-contesting length to Yale’s perimeter defense and to prevent the possibility of more high screens at the top of the key. Especially towards the end of the half, Aiken successfully launched deep three-pointers after finding small holes a few feet behind the three-point arc.
Building on a 16 of 16 mark from the free throw line against Princeton yesterday, the Bulldogs shot a perfect six for six from the charity stripe in the first half.
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