MEN’S BASKETBALL: Yale’s first-ever triple-double, Atkinson’s 1,000th highlight weekend sweep in New York
Forward Jordan Bruner ’20 recorded the first triple-double in school history Friday, while forward Paul Atkinson ’21 joined the Elis’ 1,000-point club on Saturday.
NEW YORK CITY — After a grueling 50-minute game Friday night, the Elis made quick work of Columbia in Morningside Heights.
To start the weekend, Yale (20–6, 8–2 Ivy) escaped upstate New York with an 81–80 win in a double-overtime marathon against Cornell (6–17, 3–7), its first 2OT contest against an Ivy League team since beating Columbia on the road in 2011. That season, the Bulldogs dropped their game the next night by 13, falling to the Big Red after making the long journey to upstate New York.
Yale, which arrived at its hotel across the Hudson River in New Jersey around 2:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, had no way to decrease the 230 miles that separate the Ivy League’s two New York campuses. But before playing the second leg of its back-to-back that night, Assistant Athletic Trainer Drew Moore led the team in a special stretching and yoga session at its hotel, guard Azar Swain ’21 said.
“I don’t worry about fatigue,” head coach James Jones said. “This is kind of what we do all the time. Our guys are used to it. They’re physically fit. They’re 18 to 22-year-old guys that know how to get around… Drew Moore does a tremendous job of getting everybody back in shape and ready to go.”
Whatever Moore did worked — and worked very successfully — propelling Yale to an 83–65 win over Columbia (6–20, 1–9). When the ball tipped at Levien Gymnasium, the Elis showed no signs of fatigue, scoring 14 points in the game’s first five minutes before breaking open the contest with a 26–7 run. The weekend sweep puts them alone atop the Ivy standings.
Lions guard Mike Smith netted 37, but his individual effort fell far short of overcoming 29 points from Swain and 20 from forward Paul Atkinson ’21, who entered the weekend with 981 career points and joined Yale’s 1,000-point club after his second basket of the game on Saturday.
“It’s special,” Atkinson said. “I knew about it going into this game, how many points I needed. I kind of thought about it last night, I’ve been thinking about it a little over the week… I [owe] a lot to my teammates, [who] over the years have really just been distributing to me. I know if you look through, 60 to 70 percent of my shots are all assisted by my teammates.”
On Friday, forward Jordan Bruner ’20, who constantly connects with Atkinson, made his own piece of Yale history. The 6-foot-9 senior, one of four players to score in double figures against Cornell, recorded the first triple-double in school history, logging 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
Bruner, whom Jones has previously called a “triple-double waiting to happen,” had flirted with the feat before. Against Cornell at home this season, he fell two assists short, recording 11 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. But in Ithaca, he got the job done, accomplishing a significant first for the program, which is in its 125th season. His triple-double is also only the third in Ivy League history: Dartmouth center Ian McGinnis recorded the Ancient Eight’s first in 2001, while Brown guard Jason Forte logged the second in 2004.
The achievement came six days after Swain broke the single-season record for converted three-pointers and a night before Atkinson became the 30th Eli to score 1,000 points. Swain, who now has 891 career points, is not far from becoming the 31st.
“It’s a great thing, something you work for,” Swain said of all the accomplishments. “You don’t really see it happening, but it’s something you definitely work for, so it’s nice to be acknowledged in that way. I think the morale of the team is high right now. First place in the Ivy League, and we’re trying to stay there.”
Princeton fell to Harvard Friday night, giving the Elis sole possession of first after their dramatic win at Cornell. The Bulldogs, who trailed for most of the second half in a game that featured 15 lead changes and six ties, launched an urgent 8–0 run to end regulation after falling to a 60–52 deficit with 3:30 to play. Big Red guard Terrance McBride finished with a game-high 27 points, scoring all of Cornell’s nine points in the first overtime period. With 4.4 seconds to go in the frame, Atkinson had two chances at the free throw line to break a 69–69 tie but missed both attempts, sending the game to a second overtime.
Captain and guard Eric Monroe ’20 and Swain hit clutch three-pointers in the period, but a backdoor cut from McBride gave Cornell a layup and an 80–79 lead with 13 seconds to play. On Yale’s final possession, Monroe — who recorded a career-high 15 points — drove to the hoop, looping under the backboard before threading a bounce pass to guard August Mahoney ’23. The first year, who made a hard cut to the basket from beyond the three-point line to receive Monroe’s pass in stride, scored nine points and an acrobatic game-winning layup with two seconds to play.
Friday night turned into Saturday morning as the Bulldogs bussed down to Columbia for a game that would prove far less eventful.
“I honestly didn’t feel that sore after the game,” Swain said. “We got in pretty late, and it was a double OT game. We all understood what we needed to do to get our bodies right.”
Both teams started hot, scoring a combined 31 points in the first five minutes. Atkinson crossed the 1,000-point threshold less than 60 seconds into the evening with two consecutive conversions under the basket. In many ways, the milestone shot was unremarkable, a deep hook in the post that Yale fans have grown accustomed to seeing fall all season. Atkinson said that he joked about trying to reach 1,000 on a three-pointer, and the 6-foot-10 forward ultimately attempted two shots from deep on Saturday. He missed both, but his first attempt resulted in a monstrous offensive rebound and putback slam for guard Jalen Gabbidon ’21.
Gabbidon’s putback came in the middle of a 17–4 first-half run for the Bulldogs, who raced ahead after leading the Light Blue 18–17 with about twelve minutes to play. Columbia started seven-of-eight from the field before making one of its next seventeen attempts, and the Elis amassed a big advantage on the glass.
Yale owned a 44–25 rebounding advantage and 14 offensive boards by the final buzzer, as Bruner and guard Matthue Cotton ’22 each grabbed a game-high eight.
“Our guys have done a great job at attacking the glass, and we’ve paid a little more attention to it in practice,” Jones said. “Jalen Gabbidon really set the tone tonight [with] that tip dunk that he had and just attacking the glass. If you rebound by committee, you’ll have opportunities to get more and more, and we’re starting to rebound more by committee.”
Swain scored 17 in the second half to seal the 18-point win.
William McCormack | firstname.lastname@example.org