Tim Tai, Staff Photographer

Before Yale tipped off with Brown at the John J. Lee Amphitheater Saturday night, family members accompanied Yale’s four seniors and head student manager, RJ Kranz ’22, to center court. 

Kranz walked out with his sister, forward Jameel Alausa ’22 and guard Eze Dike ’22 with groups of family, captain Jalen Gabbidon ’22 with his parents and guard Azar Swain ’22 with his father. Each greeted Yale head coach James Jones, took photos and received large frames with replica jerseys. Swain called it a “surreal moment,” a feeling that had been lingering with him all day.

“It’s just great to see so many friends and family here, [for some] maybe the first time seeing me play in person since getting to college,” Swain said.

But as the Senior Night ceremony for Yale’s last game at home continued, Swain also felt anxious: “I just wanted the game to start though, that was it.” When the action got underway, he and senior classmates Gabbidon and Dike attacked the rim and built the Bulldogs an early advantage — at the first timeout about six minutes into the game, Yale led 15–6, with all its scoring coming from the three.

Brown (13–16, 5–9 Ivy) got within five points early in the second half, but Yale (17–11, 11–3) led the rest of the game. When the four seniors got substituted out, one by one, to a standing ovation late in the game, the Bulldogs’ lead was the same size as it was during that first-half timeout. The Elis maintained it over the last 42 seconds of play to secure a commanding 74–65 win over the Bears and wrap up the regular season.

“I thought we played a better brand of Yale basketball,” Jones said after the game. “We only turned it over seven times. Our previous two games, we turned it over 20 times apiece … We worked a lot this week on our offense and moving the ball.”

Yale’s 15 assists Saturday were more than double the number it combined for on the road at Dartmouth and Cornell in its two most recent games — five in Hanover, nine in Ithaca.

Swain led Yale with 22 points for his eleventh 20-point scoring game this season, while forward Isaiah Kelly ’23 added 14 points and nine rebounds. Gabbidon dished out a career-high six assists.

“I guess [there’s] a lot of stuff going through my mind, my whole Yale career here,” Dike said earlier in the afternoon on Saturday. “I just really want to end it with a bang, capitalize on a last opportunity to play in front of the home crowd in front of this setting and just soak it all in.”

Dike, who had not played since late January because of a nagging left wrist injury and a non-COVID illness that kept him out of Yale’s game at Cornell last weekend, started the scoring for Yale, driving across the paint to his left side for a layup. A spinning finish high off the backboard gave him another layup a few minutes later, putting Yale up 10–6. The Bulldogs led for 37:19 of the game’s 40 minutes.

Yale’s offense operated crisply in the first, as the Bulldogs shot over 55 percent from the field. Their nine first-half assists matched their total during the full game at Cornell, a 71–65 loss. With 12 minutes to go in the half, guard Matthue Cotton ’23 fit a bounce pass between two Brown defenders and found forward EJ Jarvis ’23 for a two-handed slam that increased Yale’s lead to 19–12.

“I think we just had a good energy,” Swain said. “We prepare pretty well throughout the week. We went over a lot of different actions that we would see. I mean collectively, we were just all there energized together, wanting to play for each other, and that’s what it’s about.”

Four straight points from Kelly put Yale up double digits, 30–19, and caused Brown head coach Mike Martin to call a 30-second timeout with 5:47 left in the first half. Swain increased Yale’s lead out of the break, deflecting a pass at the top of the key, pushing the ball out in front of him and finishing a fastbreak layup through contact. Brown ended the period on an 8–0 run to cut Yale’s lead to 39–31 at halftime.

Brown’s offensive surge continued after the break. A successful Choh layup just over two minutes into the half was the Bears’ 11th made field goal in their last 12 tries, making it 43–38 Yale, but that was the closest it would get. Gabbidon drained a three-pointer on the other end, the start of an 11–3 Yale run over the next two and a half minutes.

Senior forward Jaylan Gainey led Brown with 20 points and 18 rebounds. Gainey leads the league with 2.2 blocks a game — more than twice as much as any other player — and also blocked two shots on Saturday. 

The Bears shot only one-of-15 from deep but 53.1 percent from the field, more than 10 percentage points above the league-best shooting average that Yale has limited opponents to this season. “Brown shot too good of a percentage against us, mainly because Gainey got a lot at the rim,” Jones said.”

Alausa, the Yale senior who has not been able to compete this season after undergoing double hip surgery in late 2020, made an appearance on the court at the end of each half, inspiring loud cheers from the Yale bench and the family section above it. Alausa estimated he had about 20 family and friends in attendance.

Yale also honored Riley Mack, a senior at Darien High School, before the game. Mack first joined the program in fall 2014 through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, an organization that matches children suffering from brain tumors to college programs across the country.

The only thing missing from Saturday was a third straight Ivy League title. Entering the weekend, Yale could have claimed a share of the regular-season championship with a win over Brown and a Princeton (22–5, 12–2) loss. But by halftime in New Haven, a 23-point Tiger win over Penn (12–15, 9–5) was complete, making Princeton the outright champion. The Tigers head into Ivy Madness, the conference’s postseason tournament, as the No. 1 seed, while Yale enters as the No. 2 seed facing No. 3 Penn in the semifinal round next Saturday.

The win was Jones’ 350th career victory as a head coach. It was also his 191st Ivy League win, moving him past former Penn coach Fran Dunphy for the second most wins in Ancient Eight men’s basketball history. Former Princeton head coach Pete Carril leads with 310 conference wins and 514 overall wins with the Tigers.

Update, Mar. 6: This story has been updated to include a full recap of Saturday night’s game.

WILLIAM MCCORMACK
William McCormack covers Yale men's basketball. He previously served as a Sports and Digital Editor for the Yale Daily News and also reported on the athletic administration as a staff reporter. Originally from Boston, he is a senior in Timothy Dwight College.