Gameday Central: Home Opener Saturday Against Army

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Matt Townsend. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Bulldogs Return Home After Playing First Six Games Away From Home

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The home opener comes at a good time for the Bulldogs (1-5). Yale, which hosts Army on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the John J. Lee Amphitheater, has had a very busy start to the season.

After opening against Sacred Heart in the Connecticut 6 Classic on Nov. 10, the Bulldogs travelled to Philadelphia to face Saint Joseph on Nov. 12, played three games in three days in Indiana as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic and took a long bus ride to Burlington, Vt., to face Vermont on Wednesday. A young Yale team did some good things against Vermont, the defending America East champion. The Bulldogs had a 35-34 edge in rebounds, the first time all season the Catamounts had been outrebounded, and held Vermont without a three-pointer. Yale, though, struggled offensively, committing 20 turnovers and shooting just 32.7 percent from the field. Austin Morgan (11.3 ppg.) leads the Bulldogs in scoring. Freshman Justin Sears also is off to a strong start. He leads the team in rebounding (6.3 rpg.) and is second in scoring (10.8 ppg.). Twenty-three of Sears' rebounds have come on the offensive end, which has helped Yale average an Ivy League best 11.8 offensive rebounds per game. The Bulldogs have won five of their last seven home openers, including a 101-37 pasting of Lyndon last year. Yale was 11-1 in the friendly confines of Lee Amphitheater last year, its best home mark since 1989-90.

WHO'S HOT

•  Justin Sears averaged 14 points, 7.7 rebounds and had four steals in the three games at the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in Indiana. He was 15-of-27 (.556) from the field and 12-of-17 (.706) from the free throw line. Early foul trouble limited him to four points Wednesday against Vermont but he still grabbed five rebounds in 15 minutes.

•  Brandon Sherrod blocked a career-high four shots against the Catamounts. Sherrod had scored a season-high nine points in only 18 minutes against Western Illinois last Sunday.

•  Michael Grace scored 12 points against UVM, only three shy of his career high. He was 4-of-8 from the field and made 2-of-3 three-pointers.

•  Matt Townsend saw his first action of the season against Vermont after missing the first five games with an injury. He was 2-of-3 from the field and scored four points in 17 minutes. 

HISTORY LESSONS

Yale has won two straight against Army, including an 84-75 win at West Point last year. Austin Morgan scored a then career-high 27 points, and Jeremiah Kreisberg added 11 points and 10 rebounds. Morgan also had a solid game against the Black Knights two years ago, scoring 13 points in Yale's 87-79 win. The Bulldogs have won three straight at home against Army, but the Black Knights lead the all-time series 28-23.

SCOUTING ARMY

The Black Knights (3-1) have won three straight games after opening the season with a 76-65 loss to Air Force. Army earned a hard-fought 67-59 victory at St. Francis, NY, on Tuesday. Ella Ellis (15.5 ppg) is one of three Army players averaging double figures in scoring. Ellis earned preseason All-Patriot League honors, the first Black Knight to be named to the preseason all-conference team since Jarell Brown in 2007-08. He ranked third in the league in scoring last season at 17.5 points per game. He was one of only two players in the conference to average at least 15 points, four rebounds, and two assists per game. The Black Knights were picked to finish sixth in the Patriot League preseason poll.

YALE PICKED SIXTH IN PRESEASON MEDIA POLL

The Bulldogs have finished fourth or better in the Ivy League in each of the last 12 years. That didn't earn Yale much respect in the preseason Ivy League media poll, which projected a sixth-place finish for the Bulldogs. Yale, though, has a history of proving the prognosticators wrong. In five of the last seven years, the Bulldogs have finished higher than projected. Princeton is the near unanimous favorite to win the league. The Tigers received 16 of the 17 first-place votes. . Defending champion Harvard was picked second followed by Columbia, Cornell and Penn. Brown and Dartmouth round out the poll.

2012-13 IVY LEAGUE MEN'S BASKETBALL PRESEASON MEDIA POLL

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

First-Place Votes in Parentheses

Rank       School............................................ Points

1.             Princeton (16)..................................... 134

2.             Harvard (1)......................................... 109

3.             Columbia.............................................. 90

4.             Cornell................................................. 80

5.             Penn.................................................... 74

6.             Yale...................................................... 55

7.             Brown.................................................. 50

8.             Dartmouth........................................... 20

PRESEASON HONORS

Senior Austin Morgan has earned a couple of preseason honors. He was named first team All-League by the Blue Ribbon College Yearbook and received second team recognition from College Sports Madness and Lindy's. Morgan, a two-year starter, finished fifth in the nation and set a school record with a .900 free throw percentage. Junior Jeremiah Kreisberg was named to the preseason third team by College Sports Madness. Kreisberg has started 47 games in his first two seasons. Last year, he started all 29 games and finished third on the team in rebounding (5.1 rpg.) and fourth in scoring (7.7 ppg.).

MEET THE NEWCOMERS

The 2012-13 Yale roster features four freshmen. Khaliq Bedart-Ghani (Inglewood, CA), Jack Montague (Brentwood, TN), Justin Sears (Plainfield, NJ) and Nick Victor (Dallas, TX) all bring strong credentials. Bedart-Ghani led Loyola High School in California in rebounding and blocks as a senior last winter. Montague was the district, region and county most valuable player as a senior at Brentwood High School. He averaged 17.0 points and seven assists and scored more than 1,200 career points. Sears earned first team all-state, all-area and all-county honors as a senior at Plainfield High School in New Jersey. He scored 1,048 points and grabbed 1,063 rebounds in his career to become only the second player in school history to score over 1,000 points and grab more than 1,000 rebounds. He helped lead Plainfield to two New Jersey Tournament of Champion title games where it lost to national power St. Anthony's both times. Victor spent one year at the Winchendon School and earned NEPSAC honorable mention recognition. At Lovejoy High School in Dallas, Texas, he was the 2010 District most valuable player.

2012-13 SCHEDULE NOTES

•  The Bulldogs don't play their first home game until Saturday, Nov. 24 against Army at 2 p.m. That is the first of 12 games in the friendly confines of the John J. Lee Amphitheater.

•  Yale played in the NABC Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. The first game was at Saint Joseph, the Atlantic 10 preseason favorite. The Bulldogs then headed to Evansville, Ind., for three games, against Evansville, Buffalo and Western Illinois.

•  New England rival New Hampshire is on the schedule for the first time since 1998. The Bulldogs meet the Wildcats on Dec. 8 in Durham, N.H.

•  Yale faces a very challeging three-game road trip right after Christmas. The Bulldogs travel to Nevada, Saint Mary's and Iowa State. The trip to Nevada is a homecoming for Reno native Austin Morgan, while the trip to Iowa State is a homecoming for Ames, Iowa, native Jesse Pritchard.

•  The biggest test of the season, though, may come in Lee Amphitheater when preseason No. 10 Florida visits on Jan. 6. The Gators return three starters from a squad that went 26-11 and fell one game shy of the Final Four last year.

•  The Florida game is one of two in the Amphitheater that will be nationally televised. The NBC Sports Network will be in town for the game with the Gators, while CBS Sports Television will show the home game with Harvard on Feb. 23.

•  Yale kicks off Ivy League play on Jan. 19 at Brown. Five of the first six Ivy games will be on the road.

WILLHITE DRAFTED IN 5TH ROUND OF NBA D-LEAGUE DRAFT

Reggie Willhite, the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year last year as a senior at Yale, was selected in the fifth round of the 2012 NBA Development League Draft on Nov. 2. Willhite was selected by the Reno Bighorns with the fifth pick in the fifth round. He was the 70th player chosen overall. Willhite becomes the second Yale player to be drafted by a D-League team. Alex Zampier '10 was chosen in the seventh round of the 2012 draft by the New Mexico Thunderbirds. Willhite enjoyed an outstanding career for the Bulldogs. His 132 career steals are the seventh most in school history. As a senior, he earned second team All-Ivy recognition, set a single-season school record with 65 steals and was 17th in the nation in steals (2.24 per game). Willhite joins a long list of players that have earned professional opportunities during James Jones' tenure as the head coach at Yale. Ted Smith (England), Matt Minoff (Israel), Paul Vitelli (Italy), Dominick Martin (Spain), Matt Kyle (Portugal), Caleb Holmes (Iceland), Ross Morin (Switzerland), Eric Flato (England), Greg Mangano (Turkey) and Edwin Draughan (France) have all played overseas. Zampier and Neil Yanke (tryout with Los Angeles Lakers) both had opportunities in the United States.

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity