Yale Athletics

While many students flocked to Cambridge for the Yale-Harvard football game, the men’s basketball team stayed on campus ahead of three games over the November recess. 

Yale (6–1, 0–0 Ivy) cruised to victory against Division III program John Jay College (0–6, 0–0 CUNYAC) followed by a dominant performance over the University of Vermont (1–5, 0–0 American East). This past Sunday, the Bulldogs’ undefeated run of games was finally snapped by the University of Colorado, Boulder (4–3, 0–0 Pac 12) in a 65–62 contest that went down to the final seconds.

Playing at home against John Jay, the Blue and White dominated from the get-go, building a 44–7 lead and winning 112–55. Forward Matt Knowling ’24 had 15 points and four assists on a perfect 7–7 from the field and forward Nick Townsend ’26 added 15 points of his own. Every man on the roster played at least 10 minutes as head coach James Jones used the blowout to give younger players on the roster more experience. 

Two days later, Yale faced Vermont at home in a more competitive matchup and trailed 30–27 at the half. However, a strong defensive effort after the break limited the Catamounts to just 14 points, while the Bulldogs’ offense exploded for 46, making the final score a lopsided 73–44. 

“I have a really good staff, and everyone made great suggestions to the team [at halftime] on what we needed to do to be better,” Jones said. “First of all, defensively we got beat on some simple screening action, and we cleaned that up. We got the ball in the post, and we cut off the post, which was really important, and we offensive rebounded.”

Per usual, Knowling led the team in scoring, putting together an impressive 22-point, six-rebound performance on 10–13 shooting from the field. 

In their third and final matchup over the November recess, the Elis came into Boulder looking to build on their impressive 6–0 start, the team’s best since the 1945-1946 season. 

Down by 10 points at halftime, Yale came out strong in the second half and brought the game to within one in the final seconds. However, turnovers on their final two possessions ended the Bulldogs’ chances to win the game.

“We did a great job in the second half of battling and fighting,” Jones said. “We had the ball with 12 seconds left on the clock with a chance to win the game, but we turned it over. We’re a young team; those things happen, and we’ll try and learn from them.”

The Bulldogs looked overmatched early on against the Colorado Buffaloes, who have made a name for themselves this season with top-25 wins against Tennessee and Texas A&M. Down 19–8 with 9:35 remaining in the first, the game might have been headed for a blowout had it not been for guard John Poulakidas ’25, who gave Yale life by knocking down three-pointers on three consecutive possessions, an incredible shooting display that cut the deficit to four. 

Poulakidas had the hot hand all day, finishing with a career-high 22 points, including 6–8 shooting from deep. 

“It always feels good to hit shots but at the end of the day the most important thing is always getting the win,” Poulakidas told the News. “[We] didn’t come out on top today, but I think this game will only help us improve moving forward.”

The two teams continued to trade buckets for most of the game, and with 5:49 left in the second half, the Bulldogs trailed 57–48. According to ESPN’s “win probability” model, the Buffaloes had a 96 percent chance of victory at this point in the game. 

The Elis certainly did not make the win easy. Forward EJ Jarvis ’23, who had been quiet all game, scored seven straight points late in the game, and his layup with 3:23 remaining brought the Bulldogs within five points.

Colorado still seemed in good position for a win at the two-minute mark, but then Poulakidas struck again from deep, cutting the Buffaloes’ lead to 61–58 with 1:59 remaining. Guard Bez Mbeng ’25 cut the deficit to one with a driving layup, and a stop on defense gave Yale the ball back with 27 seconds on the clock. 

But an errant pass by Mbeng gave Colorado possession again. Following an intentional foul, Colorado hit two free throws, and a poor inbound pass on the following possession was stolen, sealing the game. 

After the game, Jones stressed the importance of starting the game strong, as the Bulldogs have started slow several times this season.

“We’ve made adjustments and have played with a greater sense of urgency in the second half,” Jones said. “We’re working to play with the same amount of energy for 40 minutes.”

Knowling finished second on the team in scoring with 16 points on 11 shots, while Jarvis added nine points and three blocks. 

The trip to Boulder gave the team’s veteran players a chance to reunite with former guard Jalen Gabbidon ’22, who is using his final year of athletic eligibility to begin his graduate studies at Colorado University.

Gabbidon, Yale’s second leading scorer last year with 11.3 ppg and a former Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year, made the final two free throws to put the game out of reach. 

“I FaceTime my boys all the time,” Gabbidon said. “Those are my young bulls. I’ve watched all their games, live mostly. I send them notes. They’re going for a four-peat [as Ivy champions] this year. That’s a legacy for me and my class that we helped lead. I want the most success possible for them. … When they get to Ivy play, I expect them to go 14–0. 16–0 with the tournament.”

Yale will be back at home on Wednesday, Nov. 30 to face Howard. 

Ben Raab covers faculty and academics at Yale and writes about the Yale men's basketball team. Originally from New York City, Ben is a sophomore in Pierson college pursuing a double major in history and political science.