MEN’S BASKETBALL: Yale extends winning streak to eight with big wins over Princeton, Penn
The Bulldogs came back from a five-point deficit to earn a huge victory over Princeton Friday night, and followed it up with a strong performance against Penn on Saturday.
Yale’s men’s basketball team, picked first in the Ivy League’s preseason media poll, is more than living up to expectations.
Yale (15–6, 6–0 Ivy) took down rival Princeton (16–3, 4–2 Ivy) in a 70–64 comeback victory Friday night and then overpowered Penn (9–12, 1–5 Ivy) 74–58 to remain undefeated in Ivy play and also extend their winning streak to eight games.
“Defensively we were really good,” head coach James Jones told the News. “Certainly, there were times tonight where you felt the crowd, you heard the crowd. It’s hard to lose when you have that kind of environment at home.”
Danny at both ends of the floor!
— Yale Men's Basketball (@YaleMBasketball) February 3, 2024
Against the Tigers, in front of a sold-out home crowd, the Bulldogs trailed for much of the first half, including a 35–26 deficit with 2:48 remaining. Down five at halftime, Yale fought to close the gap, and guard Bez Mbeng ’25 evened the score at 40 with a driving layup at the 15:42 mark.
Forward Danny Wolf ’26 hit a three-pointer with 8:42 remaining to give the Elis a 52–50 lead, one which they never relinquished. Wolf and Mbeng hit seven free throws inside the final minutes to hold on to the win.
Mbeng said the game against Princeton had been marked on the calendar given last year’s defeat in the Ivy tournament finals.
“I would want to treat it like another game, of course, but we definitely had a little extra motivation coming into this one,” he said.
Wolf led all scorers with 21 points and 12 rebounds, while forward Matt Knowling ’24 added 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Against Penn, the Bulldogs led 34–28 at the half but pulled away late, thanks to Wolf’s 15 second-half points. Wolf and Knowling led the scoring once again, finishing with 24 and 14 points, respectively.
Yale, undefeated in Ivy League play, has now won 10 of its last 11 games, the only loss coming in December against nationally ranked Kansas. The Elis now sit tied with Cornell (17–3, 6–0 Ivy) for the league’s top spot.
This time next week, only one team will remain undefeated in the Ancient Eight, as Cornell will visit New Haven this Saturday.
Defensive resurgence continues
The Bulldogs have yet to allow an Ivy League opponent to score over 70 points this season, far below the league scoring average of approximately 74 points per game. Princeton’s 64 points on Friday night were the lowest they’ve scored all season.
Princeton shot 9/15 from three point range in the first half, a big reason for their five point lead heading into halftime.
But in the second half, Yale’s defense buckled down and held them to just 4/18 from deep.
Swing forward Casey Simmons ’25 played important defensive minutes off the bench, using his speed and length to chase Princeton’s shooters off the perimeter.
Mbeng, last year’s Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year, also was a key factor in the team’s defensive turnaround, guarding Princeton’s star guard Xavian Lee for most of the night.
“I wouldn’t want to dribble the ball around Bez, let’s just say that,” Jones said. “It was a tremendous effort by him and he changed the game in the second half.”
Strong weekend for Wolf
Yale’s offensive versatility is one of its biggest assets, but much of their offensive production over the two-game stretch came from the 7-foot Wolf.
Wolf, with scoring performances of 21 and 24 points, boosted his season scoring average to 14.9 points. He also posted a double-double performance in each of the two games, bringing his total to nine double-doubles on the season.
Wolf credited the team’s coaching staff after the game.
“They did a great job of preparing us, helping to anticipate when they were gonna double me and when they weren’t,” he said.
Yale would put themselves in sole control of first place with a win against Cornell next weekend.
The game will tip off at 2 p.m. Saturday in Payne Whitney Gymnasium.