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Bulldogs Open Season At Big East Power Creighton

Alex Copeland (Steve Musco photo)
Alex Copeland (Steve Musco photo)

First Game Of Busy Stretch To Start Year

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. – James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of the Bulldogs, has never been shy about testing his team early against the nation's best. That certainly will be the case in 2017-18. Yale kicks off what is expected to be an exciting season by taking on BIG EAST power Creighton on Friday. Tipoff at CenturyLink Center Omaha is slated for 9 p.m. Fox Sports Midwest has the television coverage, while FoxSportsGo.com has the live stream, although a cable authorization may be required. Steve Physioc and Nick Bahe will be on the call. In addition, WYBC, Yale's student run radio station, will have audio available at wybc.com.

The Bulldogs are coming off another highly successful season. Yale won 18 games and advanced to the championship game of the first Ivy League Tournament before falling to Princeton. Included among the 18 victories was a season-opening 98-90 win over Markelle Fultz and Washington.

Over the last four years, the Bulldogs have 82 victories, captured two Ivy League titles and won the first NCAA Tournament game in school history – over Baylor in 2016.

If the preseason prognosticators are to be believed, the Bulldogs could surpass last year's success. Many have Yale as the preseason Ivy favorite, and in the official league preseason poll, the Bulldogs received the most first-place votes (8) and were picked to finish second.

Yale's roster is deep and talented, led by a backcourt that has earned national acclaim. Rob Dauster of NBCSports.com ranked it No. 20 in the nation. The formula for success, though, remains the same – rebounding, defense and sharing the ball. The Bulldogs led the Ivy League in rebounding margin for the sixth straight year last year, held opponents to 42.9 percent from the field, including 32.9 percent from three-point range, and averaged an Ivy League best 15.7 assists per game.

Three of last year's top four scorers return, including junior Alex Copeland and sophomore Miye Oni who shared the team lead at 12.9 ppg. Junior Blake Reynolds, one of two players to start all 29 games a year ago, averaged 9.4 points, which was fourth on the team.

Yale also will be bolstered by the return of senior Makai Mason, who is working his way back after missing all of last season with a foot injury. Mason scored 31 points in the NCAA Tournament victory over Baylor in 2016 and was a first team All-Ivy selection.

2017 HALL OF FAME CLASSIC

Friday's game is the first of four Yale will play in the 2017 Hall of Fame Classic. The Bulldogs move on to Madison, Wisconsin, to meet the University of Wisconsin on Sunday. Yale's home opener next Tuesday vs. South Carolina State also is part of the Classic as is the game at Alcorn State the day before Thanksgiving.

HISTORY LESSONS

Yale and Creighton are playing for the first time. The Bulldogs' last trip to the state of Nebraska came to open the 2005-06 season when they played in the John Thompson Classic at the University of Nebraska. Yale beat Louisiana Tech in its first game of the classic before dropping a close game to Nebraska and beating Longwood. Yale's last game against a BIG EAST opponent came in 2014, a hard-fought 72-66 loss at Providence. The Bulldogs' last victory over a BIG EAST opponent came at Rutgers in the 2002 postseason NIT when the Scarlet Knights were still a member of the conference.

SCOUTING CREIGHTON

Creighton, which is kicking off its 100th season of basketball, returns nine lettermen and two starters from last year's team that finished 25-10 and tied for third in the BIG EAST Conference with a 10-8 league record. The Bluejays reached the BIG EAST Tournament final for the second time in four seasons and advanced to their fourth NCAA Tournament in the past six seasons. Senior guard Marcus Foster was a unanimous First Team All-BIG EAST pick last season, when he scored 18.2 points per game. Foster led the BIG EAST in field goals made last winter and has earned Preseason All-BIG EAST acclaim this winter. Greg McDermott is enter­ing his eighth season as head coach at Creighton. He is 166-82 with the Bluejays.

FOR OPENERS

The Bulldogs have won two straight season openers, including last year's 98-90 win at Washington.

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