Game Day Central: Ivy Opener Takes Yale To Brown

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Nick Victor. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Bulldogs Looking To Get Ivy Season Off To Strong Start

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. - After a challenging and at times grueling non-conference schedule, it's now Ivy play the rest of the way for the Bulldogs, starting Saturday at Brown. Tipoff at the Pizzitola Sports Center is slated for 7 p.m.

Yale has played the 26th most difficult schedule in the nation, according to the Jeff Sagarin NCAA basketball rating. More importantly, though, the Bulldogs have shown steady improvement since November. Yale has played well over the last month and has won two of its last three games heading into the Ivy opener with the loss coming to 10th-ranked Florida. Highlights of non-league play include road victories over a Bryant team that is currently 11-4 and a hard-fought 61-54 win against Holy Cross. Those experiences should help the Bulldogs as they play five of their first six Ivy games away from home.

Yale has 12 players averaging double figures in minutes. Only Austin Morgan (30.5 per game) plays more than 30 minutes a game. Morgan leads the team in scoring (11.4 ppg.), three-pointers (36) and free throw percentage (.881). Justin Sears has established himself as a top newcomer. He is the Ivy League's third-leading freshman scorer (10.7 ppg.) and the second-leading freshman rebounder (6.4 rpg.). Sears also shares the league lead with 56 offensive rebounds. As a team, Yale averages 12.9 offensive rebounds per game, which is second to Brown. Brown (+3.6) and Yale (+3.1) are the top two rebounding teams in the league.

WHO'S HOT

•  Javier Duren has scored in double figures in four of the last five games. In the 104-39 victory over Oberlin, Duren was 6-of-7 from the field and added six rebounds and five assists.

•  Matt Townsend was 5-of-5 from the field and finished with 12 points against Oberlin.

•  Armani Cotton is averaging 12 points and 6.5 rebounds over the last four games. He is shooting .714 (15-of-21) from the field during the stretch. Against Holy Cross, he posted his first career double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds.

•  Sam Martin is shooting a career-best 41.5 percent from three-point range this season.

HISTORY LESSONS

The Bulldogs have won five straight and seven of the last eight meetings with the Brown. Last year, Yale swept the season series, winning 68-64 in New Haven and 73-60 in Providence. Austin Morgan averaged 14.0 points in the two games. The Bulldogs have won four straight games at the Pizzitola Center and lead the all-time series 99-50.

OBERLIN RECAP

Yale made the most of its final tune up before the start of Ivy League play. The Bulldogs shot nearly 70 percent from the field and 62 percent from three-point range en route to a 104-39 victory over Oberlin. All 13 players that dressed scored. Javier Duren and Matt Townsend each tallied 12 points to lead the way. Justin Sears and Greg Kelley added 10 points apiece. Yale's depth was again on display as the reserves combined for 63 points. The Bulldogs' bench has now outscored their opponents reserves in four of the last five games, including the Jan. 6 loss to 13th-ranked Florida. The starting five was pretty effective as well. Sears, Jeremiah Kreisberg, Austin Morgan, Michael Grace and Armani Cotton combined to make 15-of-22 shots from the field. Morgan was 3-of-3 from three point range to finish with nine points, Kreisberg and Cotton each contributed eight points and Grace had six points and three assists in 16 minutes. The 65-point margin of victory was the largest in school history. Any thought of a letdown after the game with Florida was quickly put to rest. The Bulldogs scored the first four points of the game and never trailed. Still, Oberlin was down by only 10, 25-15, with 7:35 left in the first half. Yale, though, outscored the Yeomen 19-2 the rest of the way to take a 44-17 lead at the intermission.

SCOUTING BROWN

The Bears (6-8) are playing well under the direction of first-year head coach Mike Martin. Brown has won two straight and three of its last five, including wins over Providence and Niagara. The Bears feature the Ivy League's top two rebounders in Rafael Maia (8.4 rpg.) and Cedric Kuakumensah (8.1 rpg.) and two of the top four scorers - Matthew Sullivan (3rd, 15.0 ppg.) and Sean McGonagill (4th, 14.6 ppg.). Brown is second in the league in field goal percentage defense (.420).

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.

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 

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 didn't play their first home game until Saturday, Nov. 24 against Army. That was 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.

•  Yale faced a very challenging three-game road trip right after Christmas. The Bulldogs travelled to Nevada, Saint Mary's and Iowa State. The trip to Nevada was a homecoming for Reno native Austin Morgan, Jeremiah Kreisberg hails from Berkeley, Calif., a short distance from the Saint. Mary's campus while the trip to Iowa State was a homecoming for Ames, Iowa, native Jesse Pritchard.

•  The biggest test of the season, though, came in Lee Amphitheater when preseason No. 10 Florida visited 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 was one of two in the Amphitheater that will be nationally televised. The NBC Sports Network was 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 third 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 and Travis Pinick '09 was taken in the eighth round of the 2009 draft by the Los Angeles D-Fenders Willhite enjoyed an outstanding career for the Bulldogs. 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, Pinick and Neil Yanke (tryout with Los Angeles Lakers) both had opportunities in the United States.

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity