It was déjà vu all over again for Yale in the first round of the NIT as host Vanderbilt defeated the Bulldogs at Memorial Gymnasium, 71-62.
Vanderbilt jumped out to an 11-0 lead two days after Yale fell behind in a 12-0 role against Princeton in the Ivy League Tournament final. The deficit proved too much for Yale to overcome.
Junior guard August Mahoney shot the Bulldogs back into the game with eight early points, but the Commodores expanded the lead to 37-23 at the half.
Yale was only 9-for-30 from the field at halftime, while Vandy was 15-for-30 and outrebounded Yale 23-15.
The Bulldogs cut the lead to 50-46 on a 12-0 run, culminating in a trey by first-year forward Danny Wolf, a steal by sophomore guard Bez Mbeng and a lay-in by sophomore guard Yassine Gharram. Vanderbilt was held scoreless for almost five minutes. Three free throws by sophomore guard John Poulakidas then cut it to 52-49 with 6:30 remaining.
“We hunkered down and worked to get back in the game,” Yale coach James Jones said.
Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse then switched to a zone, and Vanderbilt ran out to a 60-51 lead.
Mahoney hit another trey to cut the deficit to 60-54 at 2:54, but then junior guard Tyrin Lawrence was fouled on a three-pointer and made all three free throws. Lawrence contributed a career-high 25 points.
Junior forward Matt Knowling appeared to still not be at 100% after the ankle injury he suffered last month.
Yale has been a second-half team all season, coming back from large deficits against Fairfield, Vermont and Princeton. That was not to be the case against a quick and athletic foe like Vanderbilt.
Poor free throw shooting cost Yale. The Bulldogs were only 7-for-12 from the charity stripe, with a few key misses by Mbeng and Knowling in the last few minutes. Vanderbilt shot 20-for-27 from the foul line.
Mahoney registered 19 points on 6-for-11 shooting and sophomore forward Jack Molloy regained his shooting touch with eight points on 3-for-4 shooting.
Yale’s bench outscored Vanderbilt’s reserves, 19-8.
Vanderbilt was one of the hottest teams in the country over the last few weeks, winning five of its last six games, including two against Kentucky.
Yale finished the season at 21-9 and Vanderbilt, wich plays Michigan next at home, stands at 21-14.
The game featured two of the best-dressed coaches in the college game in Jones and Stackhouse, a former North Carolina star.
The future is bright for the Bulldogs, with Poulakidas, Mbeng, Knowling, Mahoney, Molloy, Gharram, Wolf and junior forward Yussif Basa-Ama returning and some key new pieces entering.