Yale holds off Columbia, 63-59, Justin Sears dominates

Even Justin Sears' stat line doesn't do justice to how clutch he was at Levien Gym Saturday. (Fred Beckham/AP)
Even Justin Sears’ stat line doesn’t do justice to how clutch he was at Levien Gym Saturday. (Fred Beckham/AP)

Last year, Yale made the trek to Columbia and got blown out. But that was on a Saturday night, after the long ride back from Cornell.

This year Yale got Columbia on a Friday and made the best of it with an exciting 63-59 win, which left Yale as the only undefeated Ivy, a strange stat for just three games into the Ivy season.

Justin Sears was far and away the best player on the court, with 28 points, eight rebounds, three blocks, two steals, two assists and zero turnovers, in addition to a game-saving block of an attempted three-pointer by Columbia standout Maodo Lo.

Javier Duren made clutch free throws down the stretch.

Yale got off to a slow start but still led 35-32 at the half. The Elis built a large lead to start the second half, but Columbia fought back with a barrage of threes, to cut the deficit to 58-57. The Lions were unable to take the lead as Yale closed them out from the charity stripe.

The game was played before a near sellout and very vocal crowd.

Yale made the ride to Cornell last night and Columbia faces a Brown team reeling from a player defection (leading scorer Leland King) and a squandered lead at Cornell.

It is tough to believe that the Elis can run the string undefeated in a very competitive Ivy League.

Things we learned about the Ivy League in a crazy day

Justin Sears notched 27 points and nine rebounds in Yale
Justin Sears notched 27 points and nine rebounds in Yale”s 69-65 win over Brown. (ivyleaguesports.com)

Since I practice law by day, let”s enter into a few stipulations:

1. Yale is what we expected Yale to be. The UConn win was no fluke.
2. Harvard is not that good. Losing to Holy Cross, BC and Dartmouth at home just doesn”t work.
3. No team is going undefeated in the Ivies.
4. A three-loss team may casino win the Ivies.
5. Princeton and Columbia will each beat either Yale or Harvard at least once.
6. The home team always has trouble in the Yale-Brown games.

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“A signature win” for Yale basketball

Yale's victory over UConn marks a signature win on the Elis' resume. (yalebulldogs.com)
Yale’s victory over UConn marks a signature win on the Elis’ resume. (yalebulldogs.com)

Yale had a Montague, but UConn had no Capulet to defend. And as such, Yale defeated UConn, 45-44, at Gampel Pavilion, in a stunner to most of the 9,538 in attendance.

Jack Montague hit a three-pointer from the left corner with 1.7 remaining on the clock to give Yale the win. Montague was 50-95 in threes entering the game but had not made one against the Huskies. The Elis were only 3-for-21 from three for the game.

If there was any doubt about how good, tough and athletic Yale is, it was answered by the middle of the first half, when the Elis held a 22-9 lead over the defending national champions.

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Yale defeats defending national champ UConn, 45-44

"Well that was pretty wild!," Jack Montague tweeted after the game.
“Well that was pretty wild!,” Jack Montague tweeted after the game. (yalebulldogs.com)

Yale hadn’t beaten UConn in 28 years. UConn had won 68 games in a row against in-state rivals.

But it took only one play to flip that script.

Trailing 44-42 with 3.2 seconds left on the game clock, Yale inbounded the ball. Just a second and a half later, junior guard Jack Montague nailed a three-pointer that clinched the Elis the win, only the second for an Ivy over a defending national champion since Princeton trumped UCLA in 1996.

Leading the way for the Bulldogs (8-2) was junior forward Justin Sears, who notched 12 points and 15 rebounds, just 10 fewer boards than UConn (3-3) posted as a team. Senior guard Javier Duren also contributed 15 points.

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Yale wins Men Against Breast Cancer Classic

Yale did something this weekend it hasn’t done in years. It won a basketball tournament. The Bulldogs, playing as well as any Ivy team right now, handed the home team, Kent State, its first loss to win the Men Against Breast Cancer Classic.

Yale had defeated Illinois-Chicago, 70-58, and Illinois State, 53-46, to reach the final. It took an heroic performance from senior Matt Townsend, who flew in from New York after being awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, to seal the victory. Townsend had 12 points, including the go-ahead basket.

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Yale forward Matt Townsend named Rhodes Scholar

(courtesy of IvyLeagueSports.com)
(Photo credit: IvyLeagueSports.com)

Congratulations to Yale senior forward Matt Townsend for being named Rhodes Scholar this weekend. Townsend interviewed for the prestigious award in New York on Saturday and then notched 12 points on perfect 5-for-5 shooting in a win over Kent State on Sunday. Now that’s a productive weekend.

“It makes me understand that I’m at the right place,” Yale coach James Jones said of Townsend’s honor to Yale’s basketball program in a statement. “Basketball is important and academics are important. Yale is the best of everything.”

Townsend becomes the fourth Yale men’s basketball player to be named a Rhodes Scholar, joining Robert McCallum (1968), Mike Oristaglio (1974) and James McGuire (1976).

Matt Townsend to interview for Rhodes Scholarship

Yale starting senior forward Matt Townsend will miss the next two games for a pretty good reason.

Townsend will interview for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship as one of eight Yale students selected as finalists for the award. Townsend, the first Yale basketball player since 1999 to earn Academic All-America honors, has maintained a 4.0 GPA average through six semesters at Yale as a molecular, cellular and developmental biology major.

He’ll interview in New York this weekend and won’t play Friday against Illinois-Chicago or Saturday against Southern Illinois. According to the Associated Press, Townsend plans to rejoin the team for a Sunday game against Kent State.

Townsend averaged 4.9 points and 3.2 rebounds per game last season. He would be the fourth Yale basketball player to earn a Rhodes Scholarship.

In this era of academic cheating scandals throughout the NCAA, Townsend’s academic exploits are certainly refreshing.

Takeaways from Yale's loss to Quinnipiac

The Yale Bulldogs tipped off their season in Hamden last night, falling in a 88-85 double overtime shootout to the Quinnipiac Bobcats.

The matchup was a valuable early-season barometer for the Elis, allowing us to see which players are ready to step up and where the team will look to improve in the coming months before conference season. Let’s start with the good news:

Javier Duren came out firing. Yale’s starting point guard had 19 points at the half and finished with 26 points before fouling out in the first overtime. He calmly directed the offense all night, limiting his turnovers to just two, and shooting 50% (9-18) from the field.

Jack Montague shot the ball with confidence and filled in admirably for the injured Nick Victor who is reportedly sidelined for 3-4 weeks. Montague figures to be first off the bench once Victor returns. His clutch three-point bomb at the end of the first overtime extended the game for the Bulldogs.

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Yale vs. Quinnipiac: Previewing the Grudge Match

Author Richard Kent, whose basketball work includes Big East Confidential and Lady Vols and UConn: The Greatest Rivalry, previews Yale’s season-opening Connecticut 6 Classic matchup with Quinnipiac, who the Bulldogs eliminated in last year’s CIT. 

There is a changing of the guard in the Ivies and nowhere is that more obvious than in New Haven. Yale has been picked by many to finish second only to Harvard by many preseason magazines. Over Princeton and Penn no less.

 James Jones, the dean of the Ivy coaches, is not surprised. He is a confident guy to begin with, also noting that “top to bottom [this is] the best the league has been in my tenure.” That says a lot, considering Jones has helmed the Bulldogs since 1999.
Yale is coming off a loss in the finals of the CIT at Murray State. The Elis won 19 games in 2013-14 and if they take a page from Mercer, the CIT winner the year before, Yale could see NCAA action in March.

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Yale Roster Preview – 2014-15 Edition

Optimism abounds in New Haven as the Yale Bulldogs return most major pieces from a team that advanced all the way to the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) final last March. Let there be no mistake: led by Ivy League Player of the Year favorite Justin Sears, the 2014-15 Bulldogs have their best shot at an Ivy League title in the last decade. Despite the media’s unanimous crowning of the Bulldogs’ arch-nemesis up in Cambridge, Yale was voted second in the preseason poll and already proved last year that it can hang with the big boys in Lavietes, notching a dominant, league-rattling 74-67 victory over the Crimson in the midst of a seven-game winning streak that brought dreams of March glory to southern Connecticut. Coach James Jones has done a remarkable job of keeping Yale competitive consistently during every season he’s had at the helm, but he’s still looking for that elusive NCAA berth to hang his hat on. If it’s going to happen, it will probably be this year with his hard-working point guard Javier Duren in his senior season and the team building off the momentum of last year’s thrilling postseason run. After exploding in 2013-14, Justin Sears will get a lot of defensive attention this year, so it remains to be seen if the rest of the squad will be able to take advantage of their opportunities.

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