MEN’S BASKETBALL: Yale rolls past Albany, 71–52
Guard Azar Swain’s ’22 sixth 20-point game of the season and 20 Albany turnovers helped the Bulldogs to a relatively smooth win Tuesday night.
William McCormack, Contributing Photogapher
The Yale men’s basketball team delivered one of its more dominant wins of the season Tuesday night, building an advantage around all three of head coach James Jones’ core basketball principles: defense, rebounding and sharing the ball.
By the time the final buzzer sounded, Yale (6–5, 0–0 Ivy) had forced Albany (1–7, 0–0 America East) to turn the ball over 20 times and owned a 40–33 advantage over the Great Danes on the glass, including a 12–6 offensive rebounding advantage. The Elis also assisted on 15 of their 23 made field goals. It all added up to a 71–52 Bulldog win following a set of up-and-down performances in recent weeks. Entering Tuesday, Yale was 3–4 in the seven games it played since Nov. 16 and often found itself chipping away at leads opponents built early in the game.
“Today, for the first time in a while, we played some Yale basketball,” Jones said after the game, citing Albany’s field-goal shooting percentage alongside the Bulldogs’ assists and rebounding margin. Still, he thought that Yale was not very sharp. “I thought there were way too many miscues, we were loose with the basketball on offense [and] we didn’t do a good job sharing it at certain times where we got back into ourselves as opposed to playing more Yale basketball.”
The 19-point win marked Yale’s largest margin of victory since it played in upstate New York last month, defeating Siena by 28. Jones, however, said Yale has not played its best basketball yet this season. “In my mind I know what it looks like, and we just haven’t gotten there yet,” he added.
Guard Azar Swain ’22 led all players with 21 points, notching his sixth 20-point game of the season, while guards Matthue Cotton ’23 and August Mahoney ’24 scored 13 points apiece.
6-foot-4 Mahoney, known for being a strong three-point shooter, hit three triples, tied for his most in a game since Yale’s season opener against Division III opponent Vassar. Jones said he thinks the ball is going in every time Mahoney shoots it. Since the Vassar game, the guard from Saratoga Springs, NY has made no more than one three-pointer in each game.
“I was struggling to shoot the ball a little bit in these past couple games, but it’s always great to see the ball go in the hoop,” Mahoney said during the postgame press conference. “So I hope the trend keeps going and hope I can make shots going forward.”
In the frontcourt, forward EJ Jarvis ’23 made the first start of his Yale career, replacing captain and guard Jalen Gabbidon ’22 in the starting five. Jones said Gabbidon hurt his ankle in practice, and since the coaches were not sure if he could play Tuesday night, Jones made the decision not to start him. Once he realized Gabbidon could play, Jones’ mind was already set on the lineup with Jarvis.
Just over two minutes into the game, Jarvis was fouled and injured attempting to score the ball. He laid on the court to gather himself, his back to the floor, before rising to his feet with a hand from assistant athletic trainer Rebecca Davis and walking off the court. He did not appear again in the game or on the Yale bench.
Jones said he did not have extra details on Jarvis’ status. The junior forward missed the first five games of the season with an unrelated injury.
“I don’t know how bad it was,” Jones said. “I heard he caught an elbow to the head … All I know is that he couldn’t come back in the game and he went home because he was just distraught.”
Starting point guard Eze Dike ’22 attempted the two free throws in Jarvis’ absence, hitting one to put Yale up 6–2 after five early points from Swain.
As Yale settled into the first half, the Bulldogs used active hands on defense to disrupt Albany possessions. Yale ended the night with nine steals. Swain recorded five along with his 21 points and four assists. Gabbidon contributed two.
A corner three from forward Isaiah Kelly ’23 gave the Elis a 25–15 advantage with 6:35 to go in the first, and Yale’s lead remained in double digits for the rest of the game. Kelly ended the night with 11 points in his second straight game scoring in double figures.
“The team needs me to be more aggressive,” Kelly said, recalling that Stony Brook’s center played off the Yale forward when the Bulldogs hosted the Seawolves after Thanksgiving. “Taking shots and making people respect me as a player is going to open up shots for my team.”
Despite not scoring a field goal in the final five minutes and 59 seconds of the half, the Bulldogs maintained their edge through defense, drawing a number of offensive fouls on the Great Danes late in the first half. Yale entered the break up 30–19.
The Bulldogs continued to cruise in the second. Yale, up 56–31 with 9:10 to play in the game, appeared to have its sixth win of the season secured. The Great Danes, however, narrowed the gap with a 13–0 run over the next three minutes and 20 seconds.
The Elis responded with a 13–2 run of their own to put the game away.
“The thing that Yale does a really good job [of is] they wear you down, they move you a lot,” Albany head coach Dwayne Killings said. “They play late into the clock some possessions and then the next possession they just attack you, and that wears on you a little bit … I thought some of our defensive discipline eroded as possessions went on.”
Killings called Yale a “rhythm team” and said Albany intended to occasionally press and play some zone defense in the first half to try and disrupt Yale’s flow. The Great Danes entered the night ranked No. 309 of the 358 NCAA Division I men’s basketball teams in the 2022 Pomeroy College Basketball Ratings (KenPom). Yale stood at 141.
This is the eighth straight season that Albany has appeared on Yale’s schedule. Jones has a personal relationship with the school. He played for UAlbany’s basketball team and graduated in 1986 before starting his coaching career there. He served as an assistant under his former coach, Richard “Doc” Sauers, from 1990 to 1995. From there, Jones then worked in assistant coaching roles at Yale and Ohio before becoming the Elis’ head coach in 1999.
Killings, who is in his first year as a head coach after assistant coaching stints at Marquette, Connecticut, Temple and Boston University, said he respects and looks up to Jones, who is in his 22nd season and 23rd year as the Yale head coach. Killings said the two talked earlier Tuesday about one’s first year as a head coach and what Jones thought Albany was executing well on film.
Yale now turns its attention to Iona, whom the Bulldogs face Sunday night at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center as part of the Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational.