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Willhite Sparks Yale To 73-71 Victory Over Sacred Heart

Brandon Sherrod. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Brandon Sherrod. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Bulldogs Extend Winning Streak To Four

FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Monday's 73-71 victory over Sacred Heart extended Yale's winning streak to four. It's also a win that could have ramifications down the road. The game had every bit the intensity of a February Ivy League game, and the Bulldogs had to scratch and claw their way for a full 40 minutes, just like they will when league play gets under way next month.

The road victory wasn't secure until Shane Gibson missed a three-pointer, and Michael Grace chased down the rebound as time expired.

Reggie Willhite scored 17 of his team-high 23 points in the second half as Yale rallied from a nine-point deficit. Greg Mangano added 21 points, and Jeremiah Kreisberg and Grace each finished with eight points.

Willhite set the tone early in the second half, scoring the Bulldogs' first five points. He had 10 points in the first nine minutes of the second half.

"The coaches didn't think we had the energy that we're supposed to have," Willhite said. "That's something I try to do all the time. Bring energy by working hard and playing hard."

Willhite finished 8-of-15 from the field, 7-of-9 from the foul line and added seven rebounds, five assists and three steals in 36 minutes.

"Reggie is very tough to matchup with," Mangano said. "He can shoot, but he's so quick he can go right by you."

There were five ties and five lead changes in the last 20 minutes.

Mangano's layup with 4:02 left gave the Bulldogs a 70-65 lead, but Justin Swidowski scored six straight points, including a jumper in the lane that put the Pioneers up 71-70 with 1:57 remaining.

Mangano then hit a pair of free throws to put Yale back in front. Sacred Heart had two opportunities to regain the lead but couldn't capitalize.

Grace hit the first of two free throws with nine seconds left to make it 73-71 but missed the second. Sacred Heart got the ball upcourt to Gibson, who made a move to get free, but his three-pointer banged off the back of the rim.

"He [Gibson] is an outstanding player," said James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Men's Basketball. "Reggie [Willhite] made him pump fake, so it wasn't a good, balanced shot."

Gibson was held to 14 points, nearly five below is average. Only four of his points came in the second half.

Chris Evans paced the Pioneers with 16 points, and Swidowski added 15.

Sacred Heart (5-5) controlled the game for much of the first half. Luis Montes' layup gave the Pioneers their biggest lead of the game, 20-7, seven minutes in.

Yale (6-2) got back within four, but SHU closed the first half with a 6-1 run and led 44-35 at the intermission.

NOTES: The win snapped Yale's three-game losing streak against the Pioneers. The Bulldogs now lead the all-time series 7-4… There were 49 fouls called in the game… Yale was 29-of-37 from the foul line, while Sacred Heart finished 20-of-28… The Bulldogs outrebounds SHU 39-30… The Pioneers shot 55.6 percent from the field in the first half but just 34.6 percent in the second half… Yale struggled from the outside, finishing just 2-of-16 from three-point range… The Bulldogs, who have won five of their last six games, return home to host Bryant on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. The game is part of a doubleheader with the Yale women, who host Boston University at 5 p.m.

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity