Webster’s defines “toughness” as the quality of being strong and not easily broken. The word and the definition define Yale men’s basketball.
Yale exhibited toughness throughout in defeating Penn, 67-61, to advance to the Ivy League championship game tomorrow at noon against Princeton, a winner in dramatic fashion over Cornell.
Both games were played at Harvard’s Lavietes Pavilion before 1,250 fans.
Yale held a 32-29 lead at the half off 50% shooting. The lead widened to 44-35 before Penn went on an extended run to take a 56-55 lead. After a timeout, the characteristic Yale toughness was apparent in a 7-1 run.
Penn cut the deficit to one, but a dominant Yale defense and a key bucket from Bez Mbeng closed out the win.
“It was another really good college basketball game,” Yale coach James Jones said. “We fought very hard.”
“We just couldn’t put the ball in the basket,” coach Steve Donahue said. “We had our open shots, I thought. It didn’t go in today.”
Penn shot 23-for-58 (39.7%) from the field and 11-for-33 (33.3%) when subtracting the shot output of sophomore guard Jordan Dingle, who notched a game-high 28 points on 12-for-25 shooting.
“Very disappointed that I couldn’t get it done this year with this group of guys,” Dingle said.
Azar Swain led Yale with 25 points on 9-for-15 shooting, including a 5-for-8 outing from three-point range. Captain Jalen Gabbidon was held to nine points, as Penn and Jelani Williams keyed on him. Gabbidon had a total of 53 points in the two earlier meetings between the teams. Swain had shot just 8-for-25 from the field in the teams’ previous two meetings, which they split.
“Azar’s been our guy, obviously, all year, but he was extremely efficient tonight,” Jones said.
Matt Knowling added 10 points for the Bulldogs with an efficient 5-for-9 shooting from the field.
Rookie forward/center Nick Spinoso scored 14 points on 5-for-8 shooting for Penn in just 22 minutes.
Yale committed only seven turnovers.
The Bulldogs improved to 18-11, and Penn finished its season at 12-16.
In attendance for the win were former Yale greats Butch Graves, 16-year NBA veteran Chris Dudley and Steve Leondis, who was recognized during the game and got to see a memorable win for their alma mater.