So very close.
No. 12 Yale came up just short in its bid for the first Sweet 16 appearance in program history, falling to No. 4 Duke, 71-64, in front of a pro-Yale partisan crowd at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence.
Duke attained a 46-19 lead with 2:53 to play in the first half on a jumper from sophomore guard Grayson Allen, whose 29 points on 10-for-15 shooting, including a 5-for-7 clip from beyond the arc, tipped the game in the Blue Devils’ favor, giving Duke a cushion that it would need in the second stanza. The Bulldogs struggled with off-the-ball defense in the first half, getting gouged by open threes repeatedly, and Duke took a 48-25 lead into halftime.
But Yale wasn’t done. An 18-2 Elis run cut Duke’s lead to 54-47 with 11:38 remaining, and the run was fueled by rebounding from senior forward Justin Sears and scoring from Sears, junior guard Anthony Dallier and senior forward Brandon Sherrod, who in his final collegiate game posted 22 points on 10-for-17 shooting, seven rebounds, three steals, two assists and no fouls. Two-time Ivy Player of the Year Sears notched 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Yale (23-7 ,13-1 Ivy) cut Duke’s lead to 65-61 on two Sears free throws with 1:08 remaining, but two free throws from freshman guard Luke Kennard extended Duke’s lead to six 16 seconds later. Sherrod went 1-for-2 during a subsequent trip to the free throw line, with Sears tipping in Sherrod’s second-foul-shot miss to cut Duke’s lead to 67-64 with 41 seconds to go. But freshman forward Brandon Ingram responded with two more made foul shots and a subsequent Sherrod up-and-under layup rimmed out with 22 ticks left. Two Allen free throws iced the game.
Two days after scoring 31 points in Yale’s 79-75 first-round win over Baylor, sophomore guard Makai Mason was held in check by a Duke (25-10, 11-7 ACC) defense designed to do just that, scoring eight points on 2-for-12 shooting but also dishing seven assists versus four turnovers. Yale did outrebound Duke, 42-28, but the Dukies went 11-for-23 from three-point range, besting Yale’s 4-for-23 performance from deep. Ingram scored 25 points on 7-for-19 shooting, while senior center Marshall Plumlee added 10 rebounds and five blocks for the Blue Devils. Allen, Ingram and Kennard, all underclassmen, combined for 67 of Duke’s 71 points.
Yale’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in 54 years may be over, but the program gave the Ivy League its fourth first-round win in seven seasons and made history for the Bulldogs, who have went 95-58 (.621) overall and 50-21 (.704) in Ivy play under coach James Jones since Brandon Sherrod first joined the program in 2011.
After the game, Jones and his players walked over to Yale’s cheering section to thank their supporters and his former players.
— Ray Curren (@currenrr) March 19, 2016