Yale made history just by showing up. Then the Bulldogs made a whole lot more.
In Yale’s first NCAA Tournament game since 1962, the Bulldogs won their first contest in the tourney ever, besting the Bears, 79-75, after leading most of the way in front of a Yale partisan crowd at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence.
Baylor entered the game with the third-highest offensive rebound percentage in the country and ranked eighth nationally in allowing offensive rebounds, but Yale shared the same strength and proved stronger head-to-head, especially in the first half. The Bulldogs outrebounded Baylor, 36-32, and the Bears collected only nine total rebounds in the first stanza. All five Yale starters collected at least four rebounds, and three – Brandon Sherrod, Nick Victor and Makai Mason – collected six.
And it was Mason who carried the day, making a name for himself on a national stage with a career-high 31 points, including a clutch 11-for-11 performance from the free throw line.
Yale held a 39-34 halftime lead and built a 64-51 lead with 6:54 to go, but Taurean Prince kept the Bears in the game throughout with 28 points on 12-for-24 shooting, including two three-pointers in the final 86 seconds. Those treys gave Baylor a chance to tie or take the lead down 77-75 with six seconds left, but a Lester Medford turnover gave Yale the ball and the win following two deal-sealing free throws from Brandon Sherrod.
The Elis struggled with foul trouble, with Victor, Sherrod and Justin Sears playing the stretch run with four fouls but never fouling out. Sears finished with 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting.
Yale’s second-round opponent Saturday at a time to be announced is No. 4 Duke, which beat Yale, 80-61, in November at Cameron Indoor Stadium, after which Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said he would start Justin Sears on his team. Yale jumped out to a 9-0 lead at Cameron and trailed just 38-36 at halftime before Duke iced the game in the second half with superior shooting.