November 30, 2010

Bulldogs Hold Off Hartford 81-76

Morgan Scores 22 Points; Willhite Adds Career-High 19

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Yale men's basketball team has played a number of nail biters with Hartford over the years. Tuesday night was no exception, but it is unlikely there has ever been a more intense game between the two teams. In the end, the Bulldogs earned a hard-fought 81-76 victory, thanks in large part to excellent three-point shooting and contributions from a number of players.

The Bulldogs made 12-of-20 three-pointers. Austin Morgan hit all five of his three-point attempts en route to scoring 22 points, and Reggie Willhite was 3-for-3 from beyond the arc on his way to a career-high 19 points.

There were 52 fouls called in the game, and the teams combined to shoot 58 free throws. Yale appeared to have the game in hand on a few different occasions in the second half, only to see the Hawks fight back.

"It was great to play this game," said James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Men's Basketball. "They showed us so many defenses. They really made us think. It was great to learn from a win."

The Bulldogs (3-3) led 36-30 at halftime and scored the first eight points of the second half.

Hartford, though, answered with a 14-2 run, capped by an emphatic dunk by Milton Burton that cut Yale's lead to 46-44 with 12:36 remaining.

Morgan helped the Bulldogs extend the lead by hitting two free throws, assisting on two Jesse Pritchard layups and then draining a three-pointer that made it 55-46 with 9:44 left.

The Hawks, though, again got right back in it. Genesis Maciel's jumper cut the deficit to 55-54 with 7:55 remaining.

The Bulldogs again answered the challenge. Sam Martin hit back-to-back three-pointers, and a Greg Mangano three-pointer gave the Bulldogs a seemingly comfortable 68-59 lead with just 4:25 left.

"Sam probably hit the two biggest three-pointers of the season so far," Jones said. "It gave us a little cushion."

And they needed it because Hartford had one more run left. Joe Zeglinski's three-pointer pulled the Hawks within 76-75 with 36 seconds remaining.

Porter Braswell's two free throws increased the lead to three, before Zeglinski made one-of-two free throws. After Morgan hit one of two free throws with 20 seconds left, Hartford had a chance to tie, but Zeglinski missed a three-pointer. Mangano grabbed the rebound and hit two foul shots to seal the victory.

"This team has shown me a lot," Jones said. "We did a great job sharing the ball, and we had multiple guys getting shots. The ball is really being spread around."

Yale had assists on 20 of its 23 field goals.

"We have a lot of options," said Willhite. "We have a good post presence and a lot of good shooters. Whoever is making shots, that's the best option.

Willhite played a big role in Yale building the six-point halftime lead. He scored 17 of his 19 points in the opening 20 minutes. It was much-needed as Mangano, the Bulldogs' leading scorer, did not score and was limited to nine minutes after picking up two early fouls.

"I had a lot of opportunities," Willhite said. "Greg was in foul trouble so I just tried to step up and hit some shots."

Zeglinski scored all of his team-high 21 points in the second half for the Hawks.

NOTES: Of the 11 games between Yale and Hartford, seven have now been decided by five or fewer points… Braswell had a career-high eight assists for the Bulldogs… Mangano scored all 14 of his points in the second half… Hartford outrebounded Yale 34-26 and had 12 offensive rebounds… The Hawks were 22-of-26 from the foul line… The Bulldogs are back in action on Saturday when they play at Vermont. Tipoff is slated for 1 p.m.

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity