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ON CAMPUS A look at the area college sports scene

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Yale escapes with win over Brown

By Bill Cloutier
Assistant Sports Editor
bcloutier@nhregister.com
NEW HAVEN – The sigh of relief could be heard all the way to the campus of Harvard in Cambridge, Mass.

Yale, down by as many as 11 points and trailing virtually the entire game, finished the game on a 13-3 run to defeat Brown 68-64 in the Ivy League opener for both teams before a crowd of 1,832 at the Lee Amphitheater Saturday.
Yale, picked second in the preseason league poll, entered the game a 13-point favorite and after posting a 10-4 pre-league record, its best since 1991, its title aspirations were high.
A loss to Brown was frankly unacceptable if the Bulldogs had any chance of taking the Ivy League title from heavyweights such as Harvard..
“They’re all big wins,” Yale coach James Jones said. “You don’t ever want to lose a league game especially at home. You don’t want to start off 0-1. I thought our kids did a really good job of keeping their composure but I can’t tell you that I felt like we were going to pull this one out the whole time because I didn’t.
Austin Morgan led Yale with 18 points seven in the decisive run. Greg Mangano had a quiet 15 points and just four rebounds, well below his league-leading average of 10.7.
And Reggie Willhite finished with 12 points and three steals, two of which changed the game.
“It took the last five minutes of the game to ratchet things up a little bit, especially on the defensive end and make some plays give ourselves the opportunity to win,” Jones said.
Trailing 61-58 with 1:35 to play, Willhite picked the pocket of Brown star Sean McGonahill and turned it into a thunderous dunk. On the very next trip down the court Willhite did it again.
After the second steal Yale took a timeout and then Willhite buried a jumpshot with 59 seconds to play to give Yale its first lead, 62-61, since it led 7-3 in the game’s first minutes.
McGonagill finished with a game-high 23 points but couldn’t beat Willhite when the game was on the line. Regarded as the league’s best defender, Jones never opted to have Willhite defend the high-scoring Brown guard until the game’s final minutes.
“(Entering the game) we didn’t feel we needed to,” Jones said. “We thought our trio of guards would give him enough trouble. But you have to give McGonagill credit. He had a great game. He made a lot of tough shots and I don’t know if he’s going to make those shots night after night.
“Not taking anything away from Reggie but McGonagill played 40 minutes and he may not make those steals if he wasn’t that tired.”
Said Willhite: “Even before I switched on McGonagill they had been stalling. They were playing not to lose, not necessarily to win. I knew I didn’t have many fouls and I knew we weren’t going to get many more possessions so I went for it and it worked out.
“I ended up getting a couple of steals and we got the win.”
.After Willhite’s jumper Brown had a chance to regain the lead but Matt Sullivan (16 points) missed a wide open 3-pointer in the corner.
Yale got the rebound and Michael Grace hit two free throws and later Morgan sank four more free throws to ice it.
“You’d have to be crazy not to (breathe a sigh of relief) after this one,” Willhite said. “We’re happy this one is behind us. We have to keep our destiny in our own hands and we lose the ones that we have the advantage in.”
Brown got just the start it needed. Entering the contest on a four-game losing streak the Bears fell behind 7-3 but got a boost of confidence scoring the next 10 points as Yale went ice cold from the floor and appeared a bit rattled.
Brown knocked down six 3-pointers in the first nine minutes of the game, three from Stephen Albrecht and it finished with nine trifectas (9-for-15) in the first half to take a 38-31 lead into intermission.
It could have been worse for the Bulldogs but McGonagill, who had 16 points at the break was fouled two separate times on 3-point attempts but the 78 percent free throw shooter only made one of six attempts.
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