MEN’S BASKETBALL: Oklahoma State resists 13-point Yale comeback in 64–57 win
Yale owned a 42–38 advantage on the boards, but suffered 22 turnovers and sporadic success from beyond the arc
Oklahoma State senior guard and captain Lindy Waters III hosted a special on-court ceremony with his family on Sunday afternoon — the keynote feature of festivities to honor Native American and Aboriginal heritage for OSU’s Nike N7 game.
Waters, who is of Kiowa and Cherokee descent, had entered the spotlight far earlier.
With a little less than two and a half minutes to play in Stillwater, the senior guard took over, hitting three-pointers on back-to-back possessions for Oklahoma State (4–0, 0–0 Big 12) and converting a turnaround jumper with 29 seconds to play. Waters’ game-high 19 points and clutch play in the closing minutes helped the Cowboys edge Yale (2–2, 0–0 Ivy) 64–57 after the Elis overcame a 13-point first-half deficit and surged back to tie the game at seven different points in the second half. An advantage on the boards, strong halfcourt defense and the occasional clutch triple kept Yale only a score down for much of the second half, but the Bulldogs — who trailed by two with three minutes, 25 seconds, to play and three with one minute, 50 seconds, remaining — could not make the final push.
Yale turned the ball over 22 times Sunday — its most in a single game since suffering 23 against Duke last December.
“We have to understand what our jobs are, especially against the press, and get to those areas and help the ball handler out,” Jones said. “You have to learn on the fly. In two games, we got the score tied with two minutes to go, and we’re not able to be smart enough and efficient enough to finish the game… it tells me our team is better than we’ve played in the first half. We have to get off to a better start to be able to win a game. It’s hard to win a game on the road when you get yourself down double digits.”
Yale fell to San Francisco 84–79 in overtime last Monday after trailing by 16 in the first half.
Forward Paul Atkinson ’21, who has led Yale in scoring every game this season, finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds, the third double-double of his career. Meanwhile, forward Jordan Bruner ’20 added nine rebounds, while guards Azar Swain ’21 and Matthue Cotton ’22 each ended the afternoon with 11 points and three triples apiece.
Yale got off to an active start on the boards, grabbing six rebounds by the first media timeout with 15 minutes, 27 seconds, to play in the first half after stopping Cowboy big men forward Cameron McGriff and forward Yor Anei from converting early looks on the Pokes’ first two possessions. But the Cowboys took off after the break, pressuring Yale on defense and finding points in transition, of which they had nine in the half. When operating in the halfcourt, the Pokes moved the ball quickly too, and the Elis often found themselves scrambling to help on defense as Oklahoma State launched a 16–3 run that stretched eight minutes and 35 seconds.
Despite the OSU run, the Bulldogs claimed an advantage on the boards for the entirety of Sunday’s contest, finishing with a 42–38 advantage overall but collecting two fewer offensive rebounds than the Cowboys.
“I think I held my own [inside],” Atkinson said. “Yor stepped it up in the second half and played a lot better. We did a pretty good job on their big men. [It] just came down to a couple last-minute plays that we just faulted on and a couple last-minute offensive plays that we got a little selfish [on] and [took] bad shots.”
Down 23–10 with six minutes and 10 seconds to play, the Elis responded with a nine-point run of their own, cutting the deficit late in the half. Bruner found Atkinson inside to ignite the scoring, and on Yale’s next offensive possession, Bruner collected another assist, flinging the ball halfway up the court to guard August Mahoney ’23. The first year calmly converted the second three-pointer of his four-game Yale career. Two free throws from guard Eze Dike ’22 alongside scoring from Atkinson and Swain sent the Elis into the locker room down 27–23.
Anei, who entered the game averaging 3.3 blocks a game, ended the contest with 12 points and seven rebounds, scoring all of his points after halftime. Largely because of his shot-blocking ability, Jones and Atkinson said Yale sought to draw Cowboy defenders within the perimeter before kicking the ball out for open threes.
Yale shot three of 11 from deep in the first half and launched even more triples in the second. 20 of their 31 field goal attempts in the period came from beyond the three-point line, and the Elis ended the game having converted just nine of 31 attempts from deep.
“Because of their shot-blocking ability at the basket, we felt like [shooting three-pointers] would be something that we had to do well to be successful, and we missed a bunch of shots that could normally fall for us,” Jones said.
Following the win, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Boynton said he also felt frustrated by his team’s poor shooting from deep. The Cowboys went one for 10 on three-point attempts in the first half before improving to a 33-percent mark in the second. Both teams combined to convert only 26 percent of their three-point attempts on the game.
Occasionally, however, big three-point attempts did fall for the Elis, helping Yale keep the contest a one-possession game for much of the second half. The Elis went one for 10 to start the second half before a media timeout took place with 11 minutes, 18 seconds, to play. Cotton hit a three-pointer a second after play resumed and connected from range on the Elis’ next possession as well. On the play, Atkinson beat his defender to find an open Mahoney on the outside. Mahoney glanced at the basket but instead fired a pass to Cotton in the corner, whose shot narrowed the deficit to 45–42. A couple minutes later, Swain — who had rushed across the court to recover a ball Waters tipped — miraculously converted a deep heave as Yale’s shot clock expired, tying the game at 45.
Captain and guard Eric Monroe ’20, who led the Bulldogs with four assists, hit a corner three to later tie the score at 48, and the game remained a one-score contest until Waters’ burst of scoring in the final two and a half minutes. Bruner, born in Oklahoma City, played on a team with Waters, who also received an offer from Yale during his recruiting process, when the two were in elementary school. The pair talked pregame when the Cowboys emerged for their shootaround.
“It was lovely running up and down the court with him,” Waters said. “I think I forced him to travel one time, and I was just chirping back and forth with him. It’s been 10 years since I talked to him. Just seeing him be successful at Yale means a lot to me.”
A two-handed dunk from Bruner made it 54–52 with three minuted, 25 seconds, to play, and the six-foot-nine forward led the Elis down the floor on a fast break about a minute later, dishing the ball to Cotton, who drew a foul on the drive. Cotton, however, came up empty at the charity stripe, missing both free throw attempts to set the stage for Waters’ late-game heroics and postgame ceremony.
“I don’t necessarily believe in coincidences, but it was very fitting that [Waters] was the guy,” Boynton said. “He was his best when we really needed it … But again, a lot of the credit for us not playing as well goes to Yale. They’re a good team. I totally expect them to be right in the thick of things to win their league and be an NCAA tournament participant again later in the year.”
7,260 fans attended Sunday afternoon’s game in Stillwater, part of the NIT season tip-off tournament.
Will McCormack | firstname.lastname@example.org