Bulldogs Drop Opener To Sacred Heart 92-86
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - Alex Zampier showed local basketball fans the kind of talent he has on Friday in the opening game of the Connecticut 6 Classic at the Arena at Harbor Yard. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs it wasn't quite enough to lift them to victory. Zampier scored 35 points, the most by a Yale player since Butch Graves had 39 against Harvard in 1983, but the Bulldogs dropped a hard-fought 92-86 decision to Sacred Heart in the season opener for both teams.
"I was feeling it a little bit, but it doesn't matter if I score 40 if we give up ," Zampier said. "I'll focus on our defense more than the night I had."
Zampier was 11-of-20 from the field, including hitting five three-pointers, and made all eight of his free throws. He also contributed six rebounds and three steals in 35 minutes.
"He was tremendous," said James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Men's Basketball at Yale. "He did a good job of making his shots but he is also trying hard to be a good all-around player."
The Bulldogs trailed by 21 points midway through the first half and by 13 at halftime before staging a ferocious comeback. Zampier's jumper cut the deficit to three, 74-71, with 8:39 left. The Pioneers answered with a 14-6 run, but Yale had one more rally left. Two free throws from Reggie Willhite pulled the Bulldogs within 90-86, but Jerrell Thompson made two free throws in the final seconds to seal the victory.
"We showed a lot of heart," Zampier said. "We got off to a slow start, but it was good to see us fight for the last 30 minutes."
Added Jones, "We took a blow early, but the saving grace is we stood up and fought back."
Jordan Gibson also had a big night for the Bulldogs, scoring 14 points, grabbing a career-high nine rebounds and adding six steals. Michael Sands, who was making his first career start, had 13 points and eight rebounds, and Paul Nelson contributed nine points and five rebounds.
Yale was 28 of 31 from the free throw line in the game and outrebounded the Pioneers 38-36.
Corey Hassan paced Sacred Heart with 30 points. He was 11-of-17 from the field and added nine rebounds and five assists. Four other players scored in double figures for the Pioneers - Chauncey Hardy (14), Ryan Litke (13), Mehmet Sahan (12) and Jerrell Thompson (10).
Sacred Heart shot 55.6 percent from the field in the game.
With a number of players seeing their first significant action, perhaps it wasn't surprising that the Bulldogs started slowly. The Pioneers led 20-8 after five minutes and took their biggest lead of the game, 35-14, on Litke's layup with 7:27 left in the first half.
"It was the first time getting their shoes wet for a lot of our guys," Jones said. "We took some ill-advised shots, didn't get back on defense and didn't get defensive rebounds early on, and it's hard to be successful that way."
Zampier scored 23 of his points in the second half to spearhead Yale's comeback.
"Tonight was a learning experience," Jones said. "Hopefully it will help us get better."
The Bulldogs are right back in action on Monday night at 6:30 p.m. when they play Hofstra in the first round of the Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip Off in Storrs, Conn. UConn hosts Colgate in the second game of the night at 9 p.m.
Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity