Monday, February 1, 2016

Princeton Tigers 75 at Yale Bulldogs 79 (NCAA Basketball, Ivy League) - January 30, 2016

After watching the Bryant Bulldogs lose to Sacred Heart on Saturday afternoon, we made our way east to New Haven to complete the Bulldog doubleheader. Yale uses the same nickname as Bryant (there are 14 Bulldog teams in Division I, not including the Runnin' Bulldogs of Gardner-Webb) and they were hosting Princeton in an Ivy League clash. We arrived about an hour before the 7:00 tip and found free street parking a few blocks away, avoiding the two-hour meters.

Yale plays out of the John J. Lee Amphitheater, part of their massive Payne Whitney Gymnasium complex. I visited here last year for a women's game and really wanted to return for a men's contest, when the gym would be much fuller. That is the exterior above; it looks more like a church than a sports facility and is thus known as the Cathedral of Sweat. The entire Yale campus is quite beautiful with Gothic architecture prevalent and this building, built in 1932, fits right in.

The inside is no less impressive, with high vaulted ceilings in one direction, while the other side is somewhat lower. You can see the entrance to the gym proper to the right of the photo below.

The Amphitheater is named for Johnny Lee, who played basketball for Yale in the late 1950s. He was drafted by the Knicks in 1958 but chose to go to graduate school instead, since in those days, a career in industry would be more lucrative than one as a pro athlete. Lee was featured in a Sports Illustrated article as a "scholar-athlete" and the cover is prominently displayed next to the entrance. How times have changed; can you imagine any sports periodical lauding an athlete for anything other than athletic performance?

Inside, the gym has two very steep seating sections on either side, with the south side being general admission. That's the north side below, you can see other Ivy League banners in the distance. Chairs are old (perhaps original to the building) and very hard, but also provide plenty of room. Capacity is 2,532 and for the men's conference games, they usually draw over 2,000. Of course, the Harvard game will sell out.

On the entrance level there is a standing area that provides a very interesting angle as you are almost right on top of the court. Many fans spend the game here, preferring to stand than to sit on those chairs. On the far side there is the Ivy League Club, which is open to the public. For $15 you can enjoy a buffet as well as an open bar that serves from 30 minutes before tip to the end of halftime. We did not partake, but it sure looked good and if I return here, I'll definitely try it.

The students sit on the lower benches on the south side and they were out in force on this night. Several were dressed in costumes, including the StayPuft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters.

There are also balcony seats behind each basket that are not very popular as they are quite high, but again the view is unusual due to the fact that you are almost right on top of the court.

There is a board on one wall that recognizes gymnastic records from well over 100 years ago. The Hitch and Kick and Club Swinging are two events that did not survive the intervening century.

Overall, I found this to be a wonderful place to watch a game. A unique sports venue, cheap tickets, good fans, and the ability to move around from place to place, so you didn't get too sore sitting for two hours. If you happen to be near New Haven and the Bulldogs are home, stop in for an old-time basketball experience.

As mentioned, the Princeton Tigers were visiting, coming in with a 2-0 record in conference play while Yale was 3-0. As the Ivy League does not hold a tournament to decide their March Madness representative, this game would go a long way to determine who would go dancing. Yale was the preseason favourite, while Princeton was third, behind Columbia.

Fouls were again the story of the game, with Princeton (wearing home whites for some reason) picking up 3 in 32 seconds early in the first half. After Henry Caruso nailed a three to bring Princeton within 2, Yale went on a 13-2 run to take a 28-16 lead. But a couple of consecutive threes got the Tigers back into the game, and they went into halftime down 38-32.

There were 15 fouls in the half, not that many, but the second half saw twice that number as the game dragged on and on. Yale was led by Brandon Sherrod, who made seven straight shots in the half as the Bulldogs took a 71-61 lead with three minutes to go. Sherrod had made his only shot in the first half, and was on a streak of 17 straight coming into the game, so he had made 25 consecutive field goals. The NCAA record is 26, but Sherrod did not take another shot as Princeton resorted to fouling to get back in it. Yale missed several free throws and Princeton drew within 75-72 after a Caruso layup with 1:22 to go. The teams traded treys, and when Yale's Makai Mason missed a layup, Princeton had a chance to tie. But Caruso missed a jumper and the Tigers were forced to foul. Yale's Anthony Dallier made one free throw to clinch the game as Yale won 79-75 in a game that took far too long thanks again to far too many fouls (45 in 40 minutes).

I am not necessarily blaming the refs either, the rules are just stupid. The slightest contact off the ball can be called a foul, even if it doesn't impact the play. Obviously basketball is too fast to apply the advantage rule as in soccer, but something has to be done to allow the players to actually play.


I returned to the gym the next day to have a look around when it wasn't as crowded. Unfortunately the door to the Ampitheater was locked, but I was able to take a picture through the window.

Sherrod broke the record on the following Friday against Columbia, sinking his first 5 shots before missing. The record is now 30, glad I was there to see part of it.

Next Up

Off to California for an AHL trip along with some college hoops thrown in. My next game will continue the Bulldog trend as the Fresno State Bulldogs are visiting San Jose State on Wednesday night. Check back for a recap in a few days.



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