Behind Physicality and Poise, Yale Advances to CIT Championship

Yale 75, VMI 62. The Bulldogs lost Justin Sears to a scary injury in the second half, but managed to hold on to advance to the CIT Final.
Yale 75, VMI 62. The Bulldogs lost Justin Sears to a scary injury in the second half, but managed to hold on to advance to the CIT Final.

The way this postseason has gone, the Yale Bulldogs probably wish they could play into the month of May. After winning the program’s first ever game in April on Tuesday, the Elis will play for a postseason trophy on Thursday at Murray State in the championship of the CIT.

Javier Duren was masterful again, taking the reins for the Bulldogs in the game’s nervous final minutes. With Justin Sears back in the locker room nursing a right hand injury suffered during a violent mid-air collision, the depth of the Bulldogs paid off again, as the poised squad held on despite the full-court pressure of the Keydets and the noise of their supporters.

Yale finished the first half on an 11-1 run to take a 37-27 lead into the break. They extended that lead to 16 points at 54-38 thanks to dominance on the boards, successfully rebounding 30 of 37 (81%) chances on the defensive end and 15 of 35 (43%) chances on the offensive end. But when Sears went in for a big slam with 10:21 to play, VMI’s DJ Covington hit him with a hard foul at the apex of their jumps. Sears fell hard on his hand, his body rolling over it, face wincing in pain. He tried to shake it off, but couldn’t continue after missing the first free throw, retreating to the locker room for treatment. The Bulldogs banded together and held on with lockdown defense, even as VMI threatened, getting within 6 with 4:33 to play. Yale allowed just four points the rest of the way.

Duren finished with 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists. Sears was on his way to yet another stat-stuffing game before the injury, finishing with 15 points in 25 minutes. Brandon Sherrod, a force down low, played one of his best games of the season, tallying 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Armani Cotton rounded out the double-digit scoring with 11 points and 7 rebounds.

Next, and last, in this exciting season for Yale will be Murray State in the championship. The game tips off on CBS Sports at 7PM on Thursday.

 

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