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Sweet 16 Berth At Stake When Yale Meets Duke

Makai Mason (David Silverman photo)
Makai Mason (David Silverman photo)

Bulldogs Seek To Avenge Earlier Loss To Blue Devils

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PROVIDENCE, R.I.  – Yale made history on Thursday, winning the first NCAA Tournament game in the 121-year history of the program. Next up, the Bulldogs have an opportunity to become the first Ivy League team since Cornell in 2010 to advance to the Sweet 16 when they play Duke on Saturday at approximately 2:40 p.m. at the Dunkin Donuts Center. Ian Eagle, Chris Webber, Len Elmore and Evan Washburn will be back for the call on CBS.

The winner of the Yale-Duke game moves on in the West Region to Anaheim next Thursday.

It's been a memorable year for the Bulldogs, who have won 23 overall games, the most victories in a season since the 1906-07 team went 30-7-1. Yale has won six straight games, 18 of its last 19 and has lost only once in the calendar year 2016. In the last 19 games, Yale's scoring margin is +16.2 points.

Thursday's win over Baylor in the first round wasn't quite that easy. The Bulldogs had a 12-point lead with eight minutes left but the Bears rallied, closing within one, 76-75, with 14 seconds left. Nick Victor, though, hit 1-of-2 free throws, Baylor turned it over on its next possession and Brandon Sherrod sealed the win with two free throws with two seconds left.

Makai Mason paced the Bulldogs with a career-high 31 points. He was 9-of-18 from the field and 11-of-11 from the free throw line. 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 Bulldogs reached the tournament after rolling through Ivy League play with a 13-1 record, which equals the best mark in school history, tying the 1962 team. Yale's average margin of victory in its 13 Ivy wins was 13.6 points, and the Bulldogs had a double digit lead at some point in all but two of its Ivy games.

The Ivy League title is the sixth in school history and the second straight. Yale shared the 2015 crown with Harvard before losing a one-game playoff for the league's automatic NCAA bid. It is the first time the Bulldogs have won back-to-back championships since 1962 and 1963. Yale's other Ivy titles came in 1957 and 2002 (shared with Penn and Princeton).

Yale's formula for success has been rebounding, defense and sharing the ball. The Bulldogs have been among the national leaders in rebounding margin throughout the season, and they lead the Ivy League in scoring defense (63.6 ppg.) and assists (15.1 per game) and are second in field goal percentage defense (.408).

Yale features the Ivy League Player of the Year in Justin Sears and the league's Coach of the Year in James Jones. Sears, who also won the award last year, is the first two-time winner in school history and the first back-to-back winner in the league since Penn's Ibrahim Jaaber in 2006 and 2007.

Sherrod and Mason were also first team selections.

HISTORY LESSONS

Yale and Duke are playing for the fifth time overall and the second time this season. Back on Nov. 25, the Blue Devils, ranked No. 3 at the time, beat the Bulldogs 80-61 in a game that was more competitive than the final score indicates. Yale scored the first nine points of the game and maintained the lead for much of the first half. The Bulldogs were up seven, 31-24, with 5 minutes left in the first before Duke closed on a 14-5 run. Justin Sears had 19 points to pace Yale. The Blue Devils have won the previous four meetings. The first game between the teams was in 1936, a 52-17 Duke win.

Yale's last win over an ACC school came in 2010, 75-67 over Boston College. The Bulldogs also beat Clemson in 2002 under James Jones.

SCOUTING DUKE

The Blue Devils (24-10) advanced with a 93-85 victory over North Carolina-Wilmington. Duke, the defending NCAA champion, has the best NCAA Tournament winning percentage in the event's history (.757) and ranks third all-time in NCAA Tournament wins (106). Grayson Allen (21.6 ppg.) leads the team in scoring. Allen was a first-team All-ACC pick and earned Co-Most Improved Player honors from the coaches. Allen had 14 points in the first game with the Bulldogs. Duke's average of 81.8 points per game is the sixth-best among major-conference teams. The Blue Devils rank sixth nationally in offensive efficiency (119.3).

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