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Big Challenge At No. 3 Duke Awaits Bulldogs

Blake Reynolds and Miye Oni (Joe Murphy photo)
Blake Reynolds and Miye Oni (Joe Murphy photo)

Yale Seeking Fourth Straight Win

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. – For the second straight Saturday, Yale will get a crack at an ACC opponent. The first went quite well. The Bulldogs knocked off Miami 77-73 in the Hoophall Invitational, earning themselves some national attention. They'll get an opportunity to make an even bigger statement this Saturday when they travel to Cameron Indoor Stadium to face No. 3 Duke. Tip is slated for 5:30 p.m. and the game will air nationally on ESPN with Doug Sherman and Jordan Cornette on the call.

Yale (4-2) has won its last three games, including a 97-87 victory over Lehigh on Wednesday night in its home opener. During the streak, the Bulldogs are shooting 54 percent from the field and averaging 92.3 points.

Through games of Wednesday, Yale was 10th in the nation in field goal percentage (.514), 14th in scoring offense (87.5 ppg.) and 17th in three-point field goal percentage (.404).

Yale's four seniors – Blake Reynolds, Trey Phills, Alex Copeland and Thomas Ryan are all making their second trip to Cameron. They were rookies in 2015-16 when the Bulldogs last played in Durham. Only Reynolds saw action in the game, an 80-61 Duke victory. He had four points and four rebounds in 15 minutes off the bench.

The teams then met again later that season in the second round of the NCAA Tournament two days after the Bulldogs upset Baylor in the opening round. The Blue Devils built an early 27-point lead before the Bulldogs nearly pulled off the biggest comeback in tournament history. Yale was within three in the final minute, but Duke held on for a 71-64 victory.

Yale has had success against ACC teams during James Jones' tenure as the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of the Bulldogs. In addition to Miami, Jones also owns victories over Clemson in 2001-02 and Boston College in 2010-11. Yale also has beaten power conference foes California, earlier this season, Washington, Baylor (2016 NCAA Tournament) UConn, then the defending NCAA champions, Rutgers and Penn State in Jones' time at Yale.

This year's Bulldogs are one of the deepest in Jones' tenure. Six players scored in double figures in Wednesday's win over Lehigh and seven are averaging at least 8.8 points, led by junior Miye Oni. Oni had 29 points in the win over Miami and followed that up with a 20-point, six-rebound, eight-assist performance in the win over the Mountain Hawks. Oni, a unanimous first team All-Ivy selection last year, is second in the Ivy League in scoring at 18.8 ppg.

Jordan Bruner (13.0 ppg.), Copeland (11.2 ppg.) and Azar Swain (10.8 ppg.) also average double figures. In addition, Phills, Yale's best on-the-ball defender, is coming off his best game of the season. He had 20 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field vs. Lehigh.

HISTORY LESSONS

Yale and Duke are playing for the sixth time. The first meeting came in 1936 and the last meeting was the second round game of the 2016 NCAA Tournament. The last time Yale played at Cameron, on Thanksgiving Eve in 2015, the Bulldogs scored the first nine points of the game and had a 31-24 lead with 5 minutes left in the first half before Duke, ranked third in the nation at the time, rallied and pulled away late for an 80-61 win. Three of the five meetings between the teams have been played in Durham.

SCOUTING DUKE

The Blue Devils (8-1) have won three straight games since suffering their only loss, 89-87 to Gonzaga on Nov. 21 in the championship game of the Maui Invitational. Duke's scoring margin is +26.6 and includes a season-opening 118-84 season opening win over Kentucky. The Blue Devils are coming off an 84-54 win over Hartford on Wednesday. Yale is the first two straight games against Ivy League opponents for Duke, who host Princeton on Dec. 18. RJ Barrett (23.6 ppg.) and Zion Williamson (20.4 ppg.) lead the Blue Devils in scoring.

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