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Gameday Central: Bulldogs Back Home To Host Hartford Thursday

Justin Sears. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Justin Sears. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Yale Coming Of Thrilling Double Overtime Win Over Army

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 NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The Bulldogs (2-5) are back in the friendly confines of the John J. Lee Amphitheater for the second straight game when Hartford visits on Thursday night for a 7 p.m. tipoff. The game will be televised on tape delay in Connecticut by CPTV Sports. It will be shown on Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 9.

Yale has fared extremely well at home recently, winning 14 of its last 15 games in New Haven dating back to the 2010-11 season. The most recent win may have been the most difficult and was certainly one of the most exciting. Austin Morgan scored 19 points, including two big free throws in the final seconds of the second overtime as the Bulldogs edged Army 86-83 in a game that featured nine ties and 12 lead changes. Morgan, who leads the team in scoring (12.4 ppg.), was one of five players in double figures. Freshman Justin Sears posted his first career double-double by scoring 10 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Yale played its first six games away from home. The Bulldogs have already been involved in a number of close games, falling in overtime to Sacred Heart in the season opener and beating Buffalo by four, 63-59, in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Yale will have a rare weekend off after the Hartford game. The Bulldogs are next in action on Dec. 5 at Bryant.


•  In his last five games, Justin Sears is averaging 11.2 points and 8.0 rebounds, while shooting 55.3 percent (21-of-38) from the field. Sears's 28 offensive rebounds are the most in the Ivy League.

•  Sam Martin made his first career start on Saturday against Army and responded with 11 points. His three-pointer with 32 seconds left in the second overtime gave the Bulldogs the lead for good, 84-83.

•  Austin Morgan was a perfect 11-for-11 from the free throw line in the win over Army. For the season he is shooting 93.1 percent (27-of-29).

•  Michael Grace has scored in double figures in back-to-back game. He had 12 points at Vermont and followed that up with 14 points against Army.

•  Matt Townsend made his first career start in the Army game and responded in a big way. He was 6-of-7 from the field, scored a career-high 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds.


Yale and Hartford are playing for the 13th time and the series is all tied at 6-6. The Bulldogs, though, have won four straight meetings with Hartford, including a 74-69 win last year in West Hartford. Austin Morgan scored 26 points to pace Yale. Eight of the previous 12 games between the teams have been decided by five points or less.


The Hawks (2-3) are coming off an 80-77 win over Central Connecticut on Saturday. Ten of the 14 players on Hartford's roster are freshmen or sophomores. Four of Hartford's five games have been played at home. Mark Nwakamma (17.0 ppg., 7.0 rpg.) leads the Hawks in scoring and rebounding. He scored 24 points in Saturday's victory over Central Connecticut and was named the America East Player of the Week. John Gallagher is in his third season as the head coach at Hartford. Gallagher spent two years as an assistant coach at Penn.


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.



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


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.).


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.


•  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.


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