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Trip To Temple Closes Out 2016

Blake Reynolds (Steve Musco photo)
Blake Reynolds (Steve Musco photo)

Yale Seeking Fifth Straight Win

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. – It's been awhile since the Bulldogs played a game outside the state of Connecticut. The last time was Nov. 30 at Bryant. That will change on Thursday when Yale closes out the 2016 portion of the schedule by playing at Temple in Philadelphia. Tipoff at the Liacouras Center is slated for 7 p.m. and ESPNU has the television coverage. In addition, the game can be viewed on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.

The Bulldogs, who haven't played since a 90-59 victory over Central Connecticut on Dec. 13, have won four straight games and sit at 6-4 overall. Last year through 10 games, Yale was 5-5. The Bulldogs then ran off 12 consecutive victories en route to capturing the Ivy League title and winning the first NCAA Tournament game in school history.

While it's a little early to compare the two teams, James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of the Bulldogs, is very confident in his young 2016-17 squad, despite losing four starters from a year ago. Yale has victories over Pac-12 Washington, Patriot League preseason favorite Lehigh and America East power Albany on its resume, and its four losses have come against teams that are a combined 29-15 (.659), including Virginia and Pitt of the ACC.

The team has taken to Jones' core principles. The Bulldogs lead the Ivy League in rebounding margin at +3.2 (Yale has led the Ivy League in rebounding margin in each of the last five years), are second in assists at 16.5 per game and have held their opponents to 39.1 percent from the field during the current four-game winning streak.

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise has been sophomore Alex Copeland, who leads the team in scoring at 14.5 ppg. Copeland played in 13 games last year, averaging less than five minutes per appearance. He is coming off a career-high 23-point performance on 10-of-14 shooting from the field in the win over Central Connecticut.

Others have stepped up as well. Anthony Dallier, who assumed the starting point guard job when Makai Mason was lost to injury prior to the start of the season, is tied for second in the league at 4.2 assists per game. Sam Downey is averaging 11.8 points and shooting .525 from the field, which is third in the league, while sophomores Blake Reynolds, who has started all 10 games and is shooting 43.2 percent from three-point range, and Trey Phills, the team's top defender, have taken on greater roles.

In addition, four freshmen have had an immediate impact. Miye Oni is a three-time Ivy League Rookie of the Week selection and is coming off a 22-point, seven-rebound effort against Central Connecticut. Jordan Bruner missed the first four games with an injury but is contributing 7.8 points and 6.8 rebounds while working his way to full strength. Eric Monroe and Austin Williams also are regulars in the rotation.

HISTORY LESSONS

Yale and Temple are meeting for the first time. The Bulldogs, though, are playing a team from the American Athletic Conference for the third straight year. Yale edged UConn 45-44 in 2014-15 and then dropped a 71-69 decision at SMU last year. The Bulldogs are making what they hope will be the first of three appearances in the city of Philadelphia this year. Yale is at Penn on Jan. 13 and then hopes to return to the Palestra for the Ivy League Tournament in March. The top four finishers in the regular season qualify for the tournament.

SCOUTING TEMPLE

The Owls (8-4) have won seven of their last nine games, including a 68-63 victory over NJIT on Saturday. Earlier in the season, Temple posted back-to-back wins over top-25 teams - Florida State (89-86) and West Virginia (78-72) – for the first time in school history. Yale is the second Ivy League opponent for the Owls, who beat Penn 70-62 on Dec. 3. Temple is 201-64 (.758) all-time at the Liacouras Center. The Owls have four players averaging double figures in scoring, led by Obi Enechionyia at 17.3 ppg. There is a familiar face on the Temple sideline. Head coach Fran Dunphy spent 17 seasons as the head coach at Penn where he posted a 310-163 overall record and won 10 Ivy League championships. 

HOME SWEET HOME

Yale has won its last 18 games in the friendly confines of the John J. Lee Amphitheater. The Bulldogs are tied with Miami, Florida for the seventh longest active home winning streak in the nation through Monday night's games. Kansas has won 49 consecutive games in Allen Fieldhouse, the longest active home streak. Yale's last home loss came on Feb. 21, 2015, 56-50 to Columbia. The Bulldogs went the entire calendar year of 2016 without losing a home game.

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