Courtesy of Dan Garcia/Yale Athletics

MILWAUKEE — No. 14 Yale (19–12, 11–3 Ivy) fell to No. 3 Purdue (28–7, 14–6 Big Ten) in its first-round March Madness matchup on Friday, 78–56.

The Bulldogs owned an early 16–15 lead seven minutes into the first half until Purdue’s size and post-play allowed it to build an advantage with free throws and points in the paint. Down 13 at halftime, Yale cut the deficit to single digits with two quick baskets after the break before a nine-minute scoring drought put the game out of reach.

Purdue guard Jaden Ivey, a projected top-five pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, led the Boilermakers with 22 points, while their 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey added 16 points, half of which came at the free-throw line. Yale guard Azar Swain ’22, who set a record in the modern era of program history by playing his 121st career game on Friday, started hot and scored 11 points in the first seven minutes. He ended the game with a team-high 18 points. 

“We’re an undersized team playing against one of the biggest teams in the country,” Yale guard and captain Jalen Gabbidon ’22 said during a postgame press conference, where much of the discussion revolved around Purdue’s size disparity. “I thought we played tough, and it just didn’t go our way.

“We shot four-for-17 from three and 23-for-63 from the field,” Gabbidon added later. “Some of those shots just have to go down. It got down to nine [early in the second half]. They went on the run, and we weren’t able to weather it enough.”

Ivey and Edey were the driving forces behind the Boilermakers’ start, as the two combined for 31 of the team’s 46 points in the first half. Quick and explosive, especially when driving downhill towards the rim, Ivey actually scored his first six points from beyond the arc. The NBA prospect ended the afternoon with three triples, which is tied for the most he has scored in a game since mid-December.

Despite Ivey’s skill, Yale head coach James Jones said Edey presented the main matchup problem. Purdue outscored Yale in the paint, 26–12.

“I was fine in terms of their personnel outside of Edey,” Jones said. “Have you seen anybody in your life as big as he is? Other than Yao Ming, I’ve seen nobody as big as he is. He’s the second-largest man I’ve ever seen, and he’s really good … We don’t have a 7-foot-4 guy on campus that we can roll around there and try to defend and try to go up against [to prepare].”

Purdue’s 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey towered over Yale players. 6-foot-8 EJ Jarvis ’23 (right) prepares to box Edey out for a rebound. (William McCormack, Contributing Photographer)

Jones tweaked the Elis’ starting lineup in response to Edey’s size. When a reporter asked him about the change postgame, Jones pointed to his father, Herman Jones, who traveled to Milwaukee for the March Madness game and observed his son’s press conference from a seat among the media. “That’s my dad right there, and he didn’t raise a fool. We could have started Isaiah Kelly [’23] at 6-foot-6 and a half against 7-foot-4, but that doesn’t seem too reasonable to me.” 

So forward EJ Jarvis ’23 began the game in place of usual starting forward Kelly. At 6-foot-8, Jarvis is slightly taller than Kelly, and the two typically play approximately the same amount even though Jarvis comes off the bench. Jones said Yale was hoping to match Jarvis with Edey and Kelly with Purdue forward Trevion Williams, who was the Big Ten’s Sixth Man of the Year. When the game began, Edey and Jarvis met at center court for the tip, which Edey won, and Purdue immediately dumped it to its center on its first possession, drawing a double team from Yale.

Ivey’s pair of threes helped the Boilermakers to an 11–8 lead at the first media timeout. A three-pointer at the top of the key from Yale guard Matthue Cotton ’23 cut the Purdue lead to 15–14 before a turnaround jumper from Swain on Yale’s next possession gave the Bulldogs a 16–15 lead, their only of the game, with 13:06 to play in the first.

Purdue head coach Matt Painter said his team wanted to devote a lot of time and effort to containing Swain, who entered the game averaging 19.2 points per game as Yale’s leading scorer.

“We wanted to really make it hard for Swain,” Painter said. “That was our number one thing is not to let him get threes, to take up his space. He got going early in the game and then after that we did a much better job on him.”

After Yale took the lead, Purdue responded with a 10–0 run, as back-to-back threes from Ivey and Purdue guard Eric Hunter Jr. got the Boilermakers back up 25–16 less than two minutes later.

Purdue forward Trevion Williams (50) boxes out Yale forward EJ Jarvis ’23. (Courtesy of Dan Garcia/Yale Athletics)

Jones said a big issue was that Edey drew fouls and scored at the charity stripe. He ended the afternoon with 10 free-throw attempts — one less than the entire Yale team — and converted eight of them. In the first half, Yale attempted zero free throws, while the Boilermakers shot 19, making 14 of them. They ended the game 27-of-33 from the free-throw line; Yale shot six-of-11.

Yale forward Jake Lanford ’23, who had appeared in just four games this season and is not typically in the rotation, was Yale’s first substitution off the bench Friday. Standing at six feet and 10 inches, Lanford is Yale’s tallest player, and although he only played two and a half minutes, his presence underscored Yale’s need to counter Edey’s advantage inside. The Bulldogs were often powerless to stop Edey, who finished the season with the best offensive-rebounding percentage in the nation, from collecting offensive rebounds. He ended the game with five. When Hunter Jr. missed the second end of a one-an-one with about four minutes to play in the first, Edey simply lifted his arms above the crowd convened under the rim for a rebound, grabbed the ball and popped it back in the hoop for two second-chance points.

“On the rebounds, I felt like I could kind of just get over them,” Edey said. “It wasn’t anything, like, revolutionary. Just rebound the ball, score the ball when I’m open, pass it when I’m doubled.”

Forward Jake Lanford ’23, Yale’s tallest player at 6-foot-10, had only played four games this season before Friday but entered the matchup with Purdue in both halves. (Courtesy of Dan Garcia/Yale Athletics)

Yale’s offense operated smoothly in the first, with nine assists setting up the Bulldogs’ 15 made field goals. Two baskets near the rim from forward Matt Knowling ’24, whom Jones said he wished Yale could have done a better job getting the ball to in the first, and seven first-half points from guard August Mahoney ’24 kept Yale competitive late in the half.

Purdue led 46–33 at the break.

“I mean, we had to come out and make a run from the get-go,” Gabbidon said of Yale’s mentality entering the second. “If we wanted to have a chance to win the game, we couldn’t let them get comfortable again right off the bat. And so to come out and make a push off the first possession was our primary focus and then to just continue playing our game.”

Jarvis scored right when action began in the second with an acrobatic layup, and Gabbidon then scored his first points of the afternoon on a take to the rim to decrease Purdue’s lead to nine, 46–37. Jarvis seemed to be enjoying the moment. On the defensive end, after deflecting a pass intended for Edey, he smiled, clapped and waved his arms upwards to welcome energy from the crowd, which slightly exceeded the listed capacity at Fiserv Forum. Attendance was recorded as 17,500 — almost double the largest crowd Yale played in front of this season, 9,121 fans at Auburn

Yale struggled to score after those early buckets in the second half, going nine minutes and 10 seconds without a point — from a Swain jumper with 18:59 to play to a Jarvis basket with 9:49 left.

“There were just a few things, maybe a few mishaps that we missed early in the game and stuff like that during runs that just compounded,” Swain said. “I didn’t sense any extreme changes [in Purdue’s defense] or anything like that. I felt like I just missed some shots in the second half.”

Yale guard August Mahoney ’24 scored eight points off the bench, including seven in the first half. (Courtesy of Dan Garcia/Yale Athletics)

Meanwhile, Purdue extended its lead with a 15–0 run. Back-to-back threes from guard and three-point specialist Sasha Stefanovic increased Purdue’s lead to 59–39 and caused Jones to call a timeout with 15:46 left to play. After Jarvis, who finished with eight points, notched the bucket that eventually broke the drought, Yale trailed 63–41.

“Any time you have a significant lead in this tournament, things can turn pretty sour pretty quickly, and [Yale] made some plays to start the second half,” Painter said. “We were able to answer and be able to push it out. I thought that was the key to the game right there: just keeping things simple, taking care of the basketball and getting quality shots each time down.”

Especially after losing in the first round of last year’s tournament to No. 13 seed North Texas, Purdue was not taking anything lightly. Stefanovic said Purdue “really prepared” and had a lot of respect for Yale. The Boilermakers kept their advantage through the final buzzer. 

Yale players warming up before Friday’s game at Fiserv Forum. 17,500 fans filled the stands once the game began. (Courtesy of Dan Garcia/Yale Athletics)

With a little over two minutes to play, Jones separately substituted Gabbidon, and then Swain a minute later, out of their final career games. He wrapped each in a hug as they left the floor. Swain was the last Yale starter to check out, slapping teammates’ hands as he walked past the bench. 

“I’ve said this to my [senior] guys, I’m 58 years old and I may see each of them maybe five more times in my life,” Jones said. “I’m not sure where I came up with that number five, but it seems fairly accurate to me that I’m not going to see them anymore. They’re going to go on in life and maybe they’ll be back for an alumni game or come and watch a game, but that’s going to be it. It’s winding down. So it’s just one of those times I wanted to take in and make sure they know how I felt about them and how special they have been for our program.”

The short-term sting of Yale’s loss on Friday will likely ease in retrospect. For teams from one-bid conferences like the Ivy League, winning a conference tournament to qualify for March Madness is often the season’s ultimate goal. After the buzzer sounded and players shook hands, Jones walked over towards the Yale contingent in section 105, as he and the Bulldogs clapped to indicate their appreciation.

Purdue will meet No. 6 Texas, which defeated No. 11 Virginia Tech in the contest immediately following Yale’s, in the second round on Sunday.

Update, Mar. 18: This story was updated to include a full recap of Friday afternoon’s NCAA Tournament game.

William McCormack covered Yale men's basketball from 2018 to 2022. He served as Sports Editor and Digital Editor for the Managing Board of 2022 and also reported on the athletic administration as a staff reporter. Originally from Boston, he was in Timothy Dwight College.