Yale Athletics

Down one with four seconds remaining, Yale’s Matt Knowling ’24 found himself in open space, caught the ball and finished through contact for an and-one game-winning finish. 

Yale (16–6, 7–0 Ivy) defeated Cornell (17–4, 6–1 Ivy) 80–78 on Saturday afternoon, sending fans home happy off Knowling’s heroics. With the win, the Bulldogs now sit in sole possession of first place in the Ivy League and are one of only two teams in the country to remain undefeated in conference play.

“I saw John’s [Poulakidas ’25] guy trailing him, so I knew that either he’d be open for a three or I’d be open on a slip,” Knowling told the News after the game. “Made eye contact with Bez [Mbeng ’25] and he made a good pass, the ball went through.”

The Bulldogs fell behind early, going down 39–24 late in the first half and playing from behind for over 30 minutes before evening up the score on forward Danny Wolf’s ’26 layup with under four minutes remaining.

Wolf led all scorers with 25 points and finished with 10 rebounds, his 10th double-double of the season. Knowling had 12 points and nine rebounds, and guard Mbeng filled up the stat sheet with seven points, six assists and four steals, including a key strip of Cornell’s Chris Manon late in the game. 

With four minutes remaining and Yale down 71–67, an errant pass by Wolf led to a fastbreak for the Big Red. But Mbeng, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, chased Manon from behind and made a heroic dive for the ball to poke it away and reclaim it for Yale. The Elis scored on their next four possessions, including a Poulakidas corner three that made it 74-73 with 3:13 remaining, Yale’s first lead of the half. 

“It’s nice to have a point guard who’s the best defensive player in the league,” Wolf said of Mbeng. “I turned it over and he had my back, it’s huge to have a guy like that.”

With the win, the Bulldogs extended their winning streak to nine, currently the third-longest win streak in the entire country. Since a Dec. 6 loss to Fairfield, they’ve won 11 of 12 games.

Yale’s defense, which shut down Princeton and Penn in last weekend’s two wins, struggled to contain Cornell’s fast-paced offense in the first half, allowing them 46 points before halftime. But the Elis adjusted after halftime, slowing down the Big Red offense — which plays the fifth fastest of any team in the country — and letting up 32 points. 

The Bulldogs also managed to overcome a poor three-point shooting night, hitting just 3-14 from distance compared to Cornell’s 10-25. Yale’s stellar offensive rebounding, 17 to Cornell’s three, helped to make up for the off night from deep.

I was extremely proud as a coach to have our guys fight the way they did, come back and play together,” head coach James Jones said. “Cornell is a tough team to play.”

The game marked the first time since 2003 that two 6-0 or better teams squared off. The last time the Bulldogs began the season 7–0 was in 2016, a season in which they’d go on to upset Baylor in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Jones climbed onto the bleachers and celebrated with the fans following the victory. 

“One of the reasons we were able to win is because of the crowd and the energy we derived from them,” he said. 

Next week, the Bulldogs will head on the road to face Penn on Friday and Princeton on Saturday. 

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.