Princeton bests Yale in overtime heartbreaker

By Steven Rome | Posted on, 9:30 p.m.
Forward Blake Reynolds '19 jumped for the tip-off in overtime of Friday night's loss to Princeton.

Friday night’s overtime clash between Yale and Princeton was a classic Ivy League grudge match. The two teams traded baskets in a back-and-forth first half; the Tigers answered Yale’s punch out of the break with a gritty comeback. Fans at Jadwin Gymnasium were treated to an extra five minutes of tense, gutsy basketball.

But all this was little consolation for the Bulldogs, who dropped their third conference game — all of which have been decided by three or fewer points in the final minutes.

There was much for head coach James Jones to be happy about in his team’s execution, as a small and pesky lineup frustrated Princeton’s offense all night. Guards Trey Phills ’19 and Alex Copeland ’19 turned in complete performances to propel Yale to as large as a 10-point lead in the second half. Yet, his team made a series of miscues in the final minutes that gave the Tigers enough opportunities to emerge victorious, 76–73.

“I thought tonight was one of our more complete games that we played,” Jones said. “The thing we didn’t do a good job tonight was cleaning up at the rim. That may be a product of us playing a little smaller, but we gave up a number of offensive rebound put-backs from Princeton that helped them stay in the game, and we also didn’t tag a couple of shooters.”

With the game knotted at 66 in regulation, Yale’s help defense forced a timely jump ball on Princeton’s Myles Stephens, who finished with 18 points after notching only four in the first 20 minutes. But with the ball and a chance to clinch the game, the team struggled to create a look at the basket, and Phills missed a contested three-pointer as time expired. Jones said that he wished Phills had penetrated instead of pulling up for a jumper.

Guard Miye Oni ’20 fouled out with just over a minute remaining, depriving the Elis of crucial size on the defensive end in the final pivotal possessions. Oni hit two threes early on but was scoreless in the second half.

The Tigers’ Jerome Desrosiers connected on a three-pointer to give Princeton the advantage with 36 seconds to play in extra time. But when first-year guard Azar Swain ’21 corralled the offensive rebound off of a three-point miss from forward Blake Reynolds ’19, Swain passed up a wide open layup with 15 seconds on the clock. Instead, he dribbled the ball back out and misfired on an attempt from behind the arc.

“Coaches have to live with decisions that are made by 18–22-year-olds,” Jones said. “Azar’s a freshman, and I’m not certain if he realized how much time was on the clock. You can only put forth so much information in a timeout to try to direct your guys, and he didn’t make the headiest play there — he had a layup and we could have called timeout and maybe fouled and set up our defense — just a tough play for him to make.”

After missing Yale’s previous game with a strained hamstring, Reynolds returned and played 28 effective minutes, shooting 7–11 with a highly effective hook shot in the low post. Copeland and Phills were iron men for the Bulldogs, playing 40 and 37 minutes, respectively, and combining for 35 points. Phills posted a double-double with a game-high 14 rebounds.

The Tigers, meanwhile, relied even more heavily on their three premier players. Stephens, Amir Bell and Devin Cannady sat out just eight minutes collectively; the latter two guards each recorded 16 points.

Perimeter shooting was working well for Yale in the first half, as the team connected on five of 10 three-pointers, in contrast to Princeton’s 2–11 mark from deep. After finishing the first half on a 7–0 run — holding the hosts scoreless in the final 3:50 — the Elis built a 45–35 lead over the first five minutes of the second frame.

But Stephens and Bell helped the Tigers inch back, finally tying the score with 5:56 remaining.

Yale will travel to Penn to take on the undefeated Quakers tomorrow night.