MEN’S BASKETBALL: Elis score inside, outside (and everywhere) in 93–62 trouncing of Columbia
The 31-point win represents Yale’s largest margin of victory in an Ivy League game since 2012.
The Elis drained a season-high 14 three-pointers Friday night, scoring 53 points in the second half to run away with their 12th win in 13 games.
Guard Matthue Cotton ’22 led the barrage in the first half, scoring 12 points within his first six minutes on the floor. The Yale (15–4, 3–0 Ivy) sixth man finished with 20 points on six-of-10 shooting from deep in a convincing 93–62 win over Columbia (6–13, 1–2), and his hot left hand ignited what ultimately became a team effort from deep. Guard Azar Swain ’21 hit four from downtown, captain and guard Eric Monroe ’20 offered two and guard August Mahoney ’23 converted both of his attempts in the second half.
The scoring came from everywhere, especially in a second half that saw the Bulldogs shoot 64.7 percent from the field. A plethora of assists — Yale finished with 26 — set up the Bulldogs’ 38 field goals, including twelve of the Elis’ triples, and Yale also outscored the Lions by 24 in the paint. The 31-point win marks Yale’s largest margin of victory in an Ivy League game since defeating Cornell, 71–40, at the John J. Lee Amphitheater in February 2012.
“Our whole game plan is trying to go inside out,” head coach James Jones said. “We think we’re really good at the basket. And if they’re gonna try to take that away, well that’s going to open up shots on the perimeter. We got those looks and we got some in transition. The guys [are] finding each other… We had 26 assists. I mean, that’s an incredible number for a Division I basketball game, to find guys that much. Our guys do a really good job of looking for each other, making that extra pass. It’s fun to watch.”
Forwards Paul Atkinson ’21 and Jordan Bruner ’20 joined Cotton and Swain in double figures. Swain finished with 16, while Bruner and Atkinson — who notched his fifth double-double of the season with 11 rebounds — each ended the evening with 14.
Columbia kept the contest competitive to open the game, leading 8–6 three and a half minutes in after guards Jake Killingsworth and Jack Forrest hit three-pointers. But the lead would be their largest of the game, and those two shots would mark the Lions’ only conversions from deep until Forrest hit another with about a minute to play in the first half. Yale held Columbia to a three-for-13 mark from beyond the arc in the half.
Two free throws from Bruner tied the game as Cotton darted from his seat on the bench to the scorer’s table, and as he stepped onto the JLA hardwood with 16 minutes and 19 seconds to play in the first half, replacing guard Jalen Gabbidon ’21, the game ended. The score was still tied, but the beginning of the end had officially commenced.
On offense, Cotton pinned himself to the three-point line, lurking in the corners. His lefty stroke struck like lightning during a 21–4 Eli run that followed his entry into the game, flashing with every well-placed Bulldog pass to the perimeter. First, Bruner found him, slinging the ball from the post to the corner. Then Monroe made a connection, facilitating another flawless catch-and-shoot.
After his third three in about four minutes, the entire Yale bench was up, Mahoney bouncing with joy as the Elis jogged back to play defense. By the time his fourth fell through the net, the entire student section had jumped to its feet, beginning their ascent before the assist from Gabbidon even reached Yale’s sixth-man scorer.
“We all know what Matt is capable of,” Swain said. “He puts in the work every day. He shows it in practice, so it’s all about opportunity… [in] the past couple games and this year, he’s been given opportunities and taken advantage of. Our team is so deep, and it shows on nights like tonight.”
Cotton, who matched his career high set at Brown last Friday, has scored double figures in three straight games. He and Bruner each scored 12 in the first, leading Yale into halftime with a 19-point lead.
A big lead allowed the Elis to play even looser in the second half. Forward Wyatt Yess ’21 ended the first by intercepting a soaring, last-second pass from Lion guard Mike Smith, sending some teammates into the locker room with two hands above their head like referees. The Elis came out with the same positive energy in the second, scoring 53 in the period.
Jones said he thought the team’s defensive performance wasn’t as strong as it has usually been this season. The Light Blue added almost double their first-half score in the second, trading buckets with Yale for a portion of the half.
Smith, who leads the Ancient Eight with 20.6 points a game, showed flashes of his skill in the period. He converted an and-one after beating Gabbidon on the dribble, finishing through contact as Swain collided with him on an unsuccessful block attempt, and with a little more than seven minutes to play, he darted around at the top of the key, stepping back behind the arc to convert a look from deep. After going four-for-12 in the first, he shot four-for-6 in the second, finishing the night with 20.
But with the offense firing, any noise Smith and the Lions made amounted to just that: noise. The Light Blue, who lost to Wake Forest by two this fall and upset Yale in New Haven last season, didn’t threaten a repeat surprise on Friday.
“It made me nervous a little bit about making sure that we were able to come out and play better,” Jones said. “I thought last year they were able to pick us apart. They scored off their offense. They score off their offense all the time. [Columbia head] coach [Jim] Engles does a great job of what they do and how they run their stuff, and they’ve been able to do that consistently against teams all year long.”
Instead, the second half turned into an offensive show for the 1,594 in attendance, including University President Peter Salovey and Yale College Dean Marvin Chun, who both showed up in the second half. Late-game dunks from forward Isaiah Kelly ’22 and EJ Jarvis ’23 bookended a half that shot the Yale crowd to its feet with nine three-pointers.
The Bulldogs face Cornell tomorrow night at 7 p.m. in the second leg of this weekend’s back-to-back.
“Tonight I’m just going to be resting,” Cotton said. “Get up off my feet, get a nice eight hours of sleep, and then tomorrow [I’ll] just come ready to shoot around, learn about Cornell, and see what they’re doing.”
The Big Red fell to Brown Friday night in Providence, 63–74.
William McCormack | email@example.com