Yale Daily News

In a season-opening 74–69 win over Stony Brook, three star players carried the Bulldogs through the second half and into overtime on Tuesday night.

A seesaw finish to the second half saw Yale (1–0, 0–0 Ivy) and Stony Brook (0–1, 0–0 America East) trade baskets down the stretch. Forward Jordan Bruner ’20, forward Paul Atkinson ’21 and guard Azar Swain ’21 ultimately combined for 54 of the Elis’ 74 points. Each appeared in all 30 of the Bulldogs’ games last season. Strong defense throughout held the Seawolves to 30.9 percent shooting from the field, and starting performances from guards Jalen Gabbidon ’21 and captain and guard Eric Monroe ’20 supplemented the effort.

“I thought that was obviously the best part of the game for us, the defensive end,” head coach James Jones said. “We did a really good job of limiting their shot attempts and making it tough for them to score. Jalen Gabbidon did a really great job on their leading scorer [guard Elijah] Olaniyi and made it tough.”

Jones noted that Olaniyi, who led the Seawolves with 19 points, only converted six of his 20 field goal attempts.

Throughout all 45 minutes, Atkinson, Bruner and Swain excelled in areas that have come to define their individual strengths over the course of their Yale careers. Swain, a threat from deep, led the team with four three-pointers and contributed 17 points and a game-high 40 minutes. The versatile Bruner collected 13 rebounds and dished out six assists, figures that were both game-highs, and Atkinson led all players with a 9-for-15 mark from the field. Atkinson also finished the overtime contest with a career-high of 26 points — most of which came in the paint.

Six of those 26, however, came from very far outside his typical domain in the post. Stony Brook started off the game with successful jumpers on consecutive possessions from guard Miles Latimer and forward Elijah Olaniyi before Atkinson netted Yale’s first points of the season. The 6-foot-10-inch forward, who previously attempted only one three-pointer in 61 prior appearances as an Eli, found himself with room beyond the arc and let one fly, surprising an unsuspecting Seawolf defense with the first converted three-pointer of his career.

“They kind of just left me open at the three-point line and left a lot of space to shoot it,” Atkinson said. “I know the coaches have been trying to make me a little more confident in my shot … It was good to make some and put some confidence in my shot, just to expand the game.”

Yale turned Atkinson’s opening triple into a 10–0 run, benefiting from Atkinson and Gabbidon layups. Bruner found Swain for a transition three-pointer to hand Yale a 10–4 lead at the first television timeout. The Elis did not relinquish the lead once in a relatively low-scoring first half, highlighted by team defense and four steals from Gabbidon. The junior guard, whom Jones called Yale’s best perimeter defender after the game, had made just one prior start in his 17-game Yale career, but added six rebounds and two assists to his final box score. The Bulldogs limited Stony Brook to 21 for 68 shooting and forced 16 turnovers in the process.

Guards Matthue Cotton ’22, Eze Dike ’22 and August Mahoney ’23 and forward Austin Williams ’20 also saw the floor in the first frame, and Yale jumped out to its largest lead of the game, 30–20, with 1:17 left in the first.

But when Stony Brook thinned Yale’s lead in the second half, Jones relied heavily on his starting five, granting occasional appearances to Cotton, Mahoney and forward Jameel Alausa ’21. Stony Brook’s big men, a cohort led by center Jeff Otchere, forward Andrew Garcia turned a 30–23 halftime deficit into a 31–30 Seawolf lead a few minutes into the half.

Though Yale battled back, the Seawolves held a 47–43 rebounding advantage on the night, and the Elis traded baskets with Stony Brook midway through the final half. The game stood tied at 48 at the television timeout with 7:55 to play. Monroe then set the tone for the offense, setting up plays in the half-court while facilitating a 55–50 Yale lead on a Swain triple with a little more than five minutes to go.

That’s [Monroe’s] role for us, and he did a really good job of it,” Jones said. “He had four assists, [and] he didn’t turn the ball over. He had limited minutes because he was in foul trouble, but he did a really good job for us.”

The Seawolves, however, refused to retreat and maintained a four or five-point disadvantage until late in the half. It appeared as if Yale might have sealed the win when Bruner followed up a missed Monroe layup on the fast break with a little under two minutes to play and gave Yale a 61–55 lead. But with 19 seconds to go, Latimer drained a 16-foot three for the Seawolves and gave his side a 62–61 advantage on seven unanswered points.

On Yale’s next possession, Atkinson made one of two at the line to prolong the contest, sending the game to an overtime in which Monroe and Gabbidon each hit threes. A two-handed slam from Cotton in the final second ended the game at 74–69.

Yale plays its home opener Friday night at John J. Lee Amphitheater when they meet Division III opponent Oberlin.

“We’re always going to have the same approach to every game as far as effort and our approach during the week,” Monroe said before the season. “The DIII game is just by nature a little different, just the level of competition, so that’s usually an opportunity where we can go deep into our bench and get everybody reps on the court, but the approach to the game isn’t any different.”

Yale met its most recent DIII opponent, Skidmore, last year, winning 88-59.

William Mccormack | william.mccormack@yale.edu 

William McCormack covered Yale men's basketball from 2018 to 2022. He served as Sports Editor and Digital Editor for the Managing Board of 2022 and also reported on the athletic administration as a staff reporter. Originally from Boston, he was in Timothy Dwight College.