Throughout the nonconference season, the Yale men’s basketball team did not experience many close contests — only four of the Bulldogs’ 16 non-Ivy games ended with both teams within 10 points of one another. But in their first two Ancient Eight games, the Elis have played Brown to a combined point differential of just five points.
A week ago, Yale bested the Bears 78–72, but in their rematch tonight the Bulldogs dropped a devastating nailbiter, 81–80, falling to 1–1 in the early Ivy League season.
With 4.5 seconds to play and the Elis trailing 79–77, head coach James Jones drew up a play for guard Miye Oni ’20 to curl around a series of picks and receive an alley-oop pass from inbounder Blake Reynolds ’19. Oni was untouched, but his left-handed layup in mid-air rolled off the front rim, and the Bears secured the victory with free throws.
The missed opportunity was the culmination of a frustrating night for Oni, who shot 3–15 from the floor, including 0–7 from beyond the arc, and scored just nine points. Brown’s Obi Okolie, who shut down Oni on defense, drained a pivotal three-pointer with 1:10 to play to give the Bears a 75–72 lead. The two teams continued to battle back and forth — as they did throughout the entire second half — until the dramatic final seconds.
At the start of the game, the Bulldogs streaked out to a quick 6–0 lead, but both sides soon suffered through an inconsistent middle portion of the first half. Yale was unable to recreate its dominance inside the paint that allowed it to seal its victory a week ago, and Brown led by eight points with under six minutes to go in the first 20 minutes.
Last Friday, the Bears surged late in the first half to set the stage for a competitive second half, but this time around, it was the visiting Bulldogs who seized the latter portions of the opening twenty minutes to lead 38–33 at the break. A 14–0 run from around the six-minute mark to the two-minute mark erased the memories of Yale’s poor play for most of the first half.
Guards Alex Copeland ’19 and Trey Phills ’19 were instrumental to Yale’s success during this run and throughout the entire game, as the backcourt tandem led the Bulldogs with 45 points on 18–22 shooting. Nevertheless, their great showings were not enough to overcome a clutch Brown performance down the stretch.