Bulldogs fall short in Ivy final

Forward Sam Downey ’17 was named to the Ivy League All-Tournament team. (Yale Daily News)

Less than 24 hours after knocking out arch-rival Harvard in the semifinals of the Ivy League Tournament in the Palestra, the Yale men’s basketball team returned to the cathedral of college basketball to try to once again defeat a team that had its number twice this season.

However, the third time was not the charm for for the Bulldogs against undefeated Princeton. The Tigers clinched the Ivy League’s automatic bid with a 71–59 win. As it has all season, three-point shooting and stifling defense carried Princeton, which held Yale to under 60 points for the third time this season and made 11 buckets from beyond the arc. Guard Myles Stephens led the way with 23 points.

The Bulldogs and the Tigers fought to a defensive stalemate in the first 12 minutes of the final of the inaugural Ivy League championship. Yale led 19–14 with just eight minutes to play in the period.

A 7–0 run put the Elis in front for most of the half. After Tiger forward Spencer Weisz’s only points of the half gave Princeton a quick lead, guard Alex Copeland ’19 hit a three that was followed by a dunk from guard Trey Phills ’19. Copeland then drove to the rim and fed forward Sam Downey ’17 for a layup.

Yale prevented Princeton from getting any more than a few quality looks at the basket in the first 20 minutes. No Tiger had double-digit points in the opening period and the Bulldogs held Weisz, the Ivy League Player of the Year, to just three points and two assists.

Downey led the Elis with eight while Copeland added five more.

However, Princeton, the best team in the conference from shooting behind the arc, hit three three-pointers in the final six minutes of the half to take a 31–29 lead heading into the break.  

Eli captain and guard Anthony Dallier ’17 made a three-pointer of his own to give Yale a quick lead out of halftime, but was followed by a 7–0 Princeton run. Downey continued to battle to extend his collegiate career, but his two-pointers could not keep pace with Princeton’s threes. The Tigers made 4–5 shots from beyond the arc in the first nine minutes of the half.

The Tigers opened up a 10-point lead with just under 13 minutes to play and never looked back.

It was quiet night for guard Miye Oni ’20, who carried Yale to the title came with 18 points in the semifinal against Harvard. The freshman, whose clutch play got Yale this far despite missing four starters from last year, had just three points in the final.

Copeland and Downey led the Bulldogs with 14 and 12 points, respectively. Combining for 25 points and 16 rebounds across the two games, no Yale fan could doubt that Downey left his heart out on the floor in his final collegiate action.

Princeton returns to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011.