Justin Sears. Never heard of him? Neither had I before he went 13-for-16 from the field and dropped 31 points on the Providence Friars on Tuesday night, keeping the Yale Bulldogs in the game for the full 40 minutes before falling on the road, 76-74. The sophomore forward was a one-man show, occasionally getting support from his teammates, as he scored in every way imaginable and likely earned any Player of the Night award that may or may not exist.
Unfortunatley, Sears was one of just two Yale players to score in double figures against Providence, but Greg Kelley's 11 points may have been overshadowed by one rough double-dribble call late in the second half. Trailing by two possessions with two minutes to play Kelley went to execute a simple dribble handoff, but a miscommunication led to what looked like a double dribble. Luckily for Kelley, Brandon Sherrod was able to forced a turnover at the other end that led to a three from Armani Cotton, cutting the lead to three with 1:10 to play.
Yale was able to force another turnover, leading to a beautiful sweeping layup by Javier Duren that cut the lead to one. A Ladonte Henton bucket on the other end gave the Friars a three-point lead again, a lead that was preserved when Duren tried to drive and kick for the game-tying bucket, but instead threw a pass off Carson Desrosiers hand to effectively seal the game. Sears made a layup at the buzzer to give us our final score and give him his 30-point night.
The loss, which drops Yale to 5-5 on the year, was particularly disheartening because the Bulldogs fought so hard to make a game of it at the end of the first half. They trailed by as many as 15 at one point and closed the first frame on an 18-7 run to earn a 35-35 tie at the break. A win would have been huge for a Yale team that may not be ready to compete with Harvard or Princeton, but instead all they can come away with is the knowledge that when they play well, they can play with almost anyone.
In a conference where players stay for four years, this is a team that Ivy League fans should be paying attention to. Every player on the roster averaging at least 15 minutes per game will be back next year -- Sears and Nick Victor are sophomores while Duren, Cotton, Sherrod and Matt Townsend are juniors -- in fact, the Bulldogs only lose two players from this year's squad, provided none of them graduate early and start running the world.
James Jones has a good thing brewing in New Haven, and I can't wait to see what it looks like come late February.