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Cinderella Strikes, Bulldogs Shock Baylor 79-75 In NCAA Tournament

Justin Sears and Nick Victor celebrate (Dave Silverman photo)
Justin Sears and Nick Victor celebrate (Dave Silverman photo)

Yale Advances To Second Round And Will Face Duke On Saturday

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – After waiting 54 years to play in an NCAA Tournament game, there was no reason for Yale to make a quick exit. Makai Mason scored a career-high 31 points as the No. 12 seed Bulldogs shocked fifth-seeded Baylor 79-75 before of predominantly pro Yale crowd of 11,656 at the Dunkin Donuts Center.

It is the first NCAA Tournament win in the 121-year history of Yale Basketball. The Bulldogs, who last appeared in the 1962 tournament, entered the day 0-4 in NCAA play.

"It's huge," said Justin Sears. "Yale is an amazing place. You can speak to anyone there and they're doing something special, and the history is there, the prestige is there. Everyone is going to look back and say this is the team where it started. I don't think it's really hit us how big this is yet."

Sears was one of many contributors, finishing with 18 points, four rebounds, three assists and a block. Brandon Sherrod added 10 points, Sam Downey scored eight points and grabbed seven rebounds off the bench. Anthony Dallier had five points, Blake Reynolds scored three and Nick Victor and Trey Phills both added two.

The game was a matchup of two of the top rebounding teams in the nation, and Yale won the battle of the boards 36-32.

"They're a big, strong, physical team," said James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of the Bulldogs. "We did a great job at making sure we got the lion's share. It was the difference in the game, and I thought it was a key stretch where Brandon and Justin both were in foul trouble, and we brought in a couple of guys off the bench, Sam Downey and Blake Reynolds, and they really gave us a boost and changed the game and gave us a chance to win."

The Bulldogs had 39-34 halftime lead, but Baylor opened the second half on a 6-1 run to tie it. The score remained tied at 45 until Dallier and Reynolds hit back-to-back three-pointers that ignited a 17-5 Yale run.

Baylor (22-12) made a late push, closing within one, 76-75, on a Taurean Prince three-pointer with 14 seconds left.

Victor then hit 1-of-2 free throws, and Baylor had the ball trailing by two, but Lester Medford lost control of his dribble and Sherrod corralled it. Sherrod then sank two free throws with two seconds left, to seal it.

Mason, who was 11-of-11 from the free throw line for the game, hit six in the final 1:36 to help hold off the Bears.

"I was just trusting in my practice, hours and hours of just shooting foul shots at the end of a workout and making a certain amount in a row just before I'm able to leave the gym," he said.

Mason, who also had six rebounds and four assists, scored 17 of his points in the first half, including one mind-blowing stretch where he scored nine straight Yale points capped by a three-pointer in transition.

"I just kind of felt in the zone and was able to hit some shots," he said.

Mason's 31 points tied for the fourth highest single-game total in an opening round game. Only Kevin Mullin (38 for Princeton in 1984), Aaric Murray (38 for Texas Southern in 2014 and Tyler Haws (33 for BYU in 2015) scored more.

The Ivy League champion Bulldogs (23-6 overall) now have the most overall wins in a season since the 1906-07 team went 30-7-1.

Baylor was ranked 21st in the final regular season Associated Press national poll. It was the Bulldogs' first win over an AP top-25 team since Dec. 27, 1952 when they defeated No. 18 Colorado.

Yale benefitted from the large contingent of Yale fans that made the trip to Providence.

"The fan support was tremendous," said Dallier. "We've played in front of pretty big crowds at JLA but to see it in this big venue was incredible."

The Bulldogs advance to the second round where they will get a rematch with No. 4 seed Duke on Saturday. The Blue Devils, who beat North Carolina-Wilmington in the first game, knocked off the Bulldogs 80-61 back on Nov. 25. Yale, though, scored the first nine points of that game and maintained the lead for much of the first half. The time of Saturday's game has not yet been announced.

 

 

Report filed by Tim Bennett (timothy.bennett@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity