No. 14 Yale made four of its last seven three-point attempts in its NCAA Tournament Round of 64 appearance vs. No. 3 Louisiana State at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville Thursday afternoon.
The problem was it missed 26 of its previous 30 despite being a dangerous outside shooting team all season, digging just too deep a hole for the Elis to overcome in a 79-74 loss to LSU, marking Yale’s second straight comeback fallen just short in a NCAA Tournament game.
Yale’s offense struggled mightily with LSU’s length in the first half, resulting in a 45-29 halftime deficit for the Bulldogs. But Yale’s spacing and transition attack cohered in the second stanza even as its outside shots continued to rim out until it made four in the final 44 seconds.
The Bulldogs shot 8-for-37 from long range in total.
Creating his own offense and keeping Yale from collapsing entirely in the first half in his final collegiate game was senior guard Alex Copeland, who finished with 24 points on 9-for-16 shooting and was also tasked, surprisingly, with guarding LSU standout sophomore guard Tremont Waters, an effective conduit for the Tigers offense.
Waters posted 15 points on 5-for-15 shooting and seven assists in 34 minutes, looming large in Yale’s first-half woes.
Yale junior guard and Ivy Player of the Year Miye Oni struggled to get shots to fall throughout, going just 2-for-16 for five points, five rebounds, four assists, two blocks, two steals and two turnovers while playing all 40 minutes. Junior forward Jordan Bruner registered 16 points and nine boards in 32 minutes, making his last two triple attempts in the final minute to keep Yale tenuously in the game at that point.
Junior guard Skylar Mays led LSU with 19 points, going 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the final 14 seconds, making successful trips there before and after a Bruner three cut LSU’s lead to 77-74 with 12 ticks left.
The comeback effort was similar to Yale’s battle back from a 27-point first-half deficit to get within 67-64 of Duke late in defeat in the NCAA Tournament Round of 32 in 2016, Yale’s last Big Dance appearance.
Yale still boasts the Ivy League’s last win in a NCAA Tournament game, the 79-75 win over Baylor in 2016 that set Yale up the near-comeback versus Duke.
LSU, the SEC regular season champion, defeated Yale despite playing without embattled coach Will Wade, who LSU suspended for his role in an alleged cheating scandal. Wade was an assistant coach under head coach Tommy Amaker at Harvard from 2007 to 2009.
Yale falls to 1-1 all-time versus LSU, having defeated the Pete Maravich-led Tigers in the 1969 Rainbow Classic championship game, 97-94, with Jim Morgan leading Yale with 35 points versus Maravich’s 34.