No. 14 Yale fails to size up No. 3 Purdue in 78-56 defeat in NCAA Tournament

In his final game for Yale, senior guard Azar Swain contributed 18 points on 8-for-19 shooting, making his first five shots before the No. 14 Bulldogs faded in a 78-56 loss to No. 3 Purdue in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee Friday. (photo by Erica Denhoff)

Size matters.

That was evident in Milwaukee today at Fiserv Forum, where Purdue throttled a game but undermanned Yale team, 78-56, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Friday.

The game was reminiscent of Yale’s 80-44 loss at a much bigger Seton Hall in November. Purdue outrebounded the Bulldogs, 42-33, and at one point had a 23-1 advantage in free throw attempts.

Yale tried a three-headed post defense, using Isaiah Kelly, EJ Jarvis and seldom used 6-10 junior Jake Lanford, who played in both halves.

That wasn’t enough to stop 7-4 Zach Edey or 6-10 Trevion Williams. Edey finished with 16 points and nine rebounds. All-American Jaden Ivey led his team with 22 points. Yale was led by Azar Swain with 18.

“I was fine in terms of their personnel outside of Edey,” coach James Jones said.

Yale took a 16-15 lead with 13:06 to play in the first half. Purdue went on a 10-point run to lead 25-16, and the Bulldogs never seriously threatened to take the lead again.

Purdue had a 46-33 lead at the half. Yale shot a respectable 48% from the field but was outscored 14-0 from the free throw line, as the Bulldogs didn’t attempt a free throw. Of Swain’s 18 points, 13 came in the first stanza. The senior guard started 5-for-5.

Yale double-teamed Edey on every touch. But Purdue went on a 15-point run in the second half off two treys by sharpshooting Sasha Stefanovic to lead 63-39. Yale missed 13 straight shots and went scoreless for nine minutes during that stretch.

Purdue has been in the top 10 all season and achieved No. 1 status for the first time in school history in December. The game was among the worst possible NCAA Tournament matchups for Yale.

Swain ends his Yale career as the all-time three-point scorer and the all-time leader in games played (121) in the 127-year history of Yale men’s basketball.

“I’m extremely proud of my group,” Jones said. “I think that we accomplished a lot.”

This season was probably the best coaching job by James Jones and his veteran staff. Their move to install first-year players Bez Mbeng and Matt Knowling into the starting lineup in December changed the entire trajectory of the Ivy campaign to come.

The Bulldogs will lose two studs in Swain and Jalen Gabbidon but return the best frontcourt in the Ivy League along with Mbeng and sharpshooting Matt Cotton and August Mahoney. Mahoney excelled in the first half Friday with seven points on 3-for-3 shooting.

Yale’s and the Ivy League’s last NCAA Tournament appearance came in 2019, when a furious Yale comeback fell just short against LSU. The Bulldogs were also the No. 14 seed challenging a No. 3 seed in that matchup. Friday’s loss marked the first time a non-No. 16 seed Ivy lost a NCAA Tournament final-round game whose outcome was decided before the final minute of play since No. 12 Harvard fell to No. 5 Vanderbilt 79-70 in 2012. No. 16 Penn lost to No. 1 Kansas 76-60 in 2018.

Yale still boasts the Ivy League’s last NCAA Tournament win – a 79-75 triumph over No. 12 Baylor as a No. 5 seed in 2016.