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Bulldogs Punch Ticket To Ivy League Tournament, Knock Off Columbia 83-73

Eric Monroe (Don Clark photo)
Eric Monroe (Don Clark photo)

Oni Flirts With Triple Double With  26 Points, 9 Rebounds, 8 Assists

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Yale's road to Ivy Madness is complete. Miye Oni scored 24 of his team-high 26 points in the second half as the Bulldogs rolled to an 83-73 victory over Columbia at Levien Gym.

Yale joins Penn and Harvard, who each clinched spots last weekend, in the four-team tournament. The fourth spot is still to be determined. Cornell and Columbia are currently tied for fourth at 5-7. Princeton and Brown are both 4-8 and still alive heading into the final weekend of the regular season.

The Bulldogs are locked in as the third seed. The tournament is set for Mar. 10-11 at the Palestra in Philadelphia.

Oni was simply dominant. He flirted with a triple-double, adding nine rebounds and eight assists to his 26 points. He spent much of the first half facilitating Yale's offense and then went to work scoring over the final 20 minutes.

"He figured out he couldn't be stopped going to the basket," said James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of the Bulldogs.

At one point in the second half, Oni scored 16 straight Yale points.

Oni had plenty of support. Blake Reynolds added 17 points and Trey Phills scored 16. Azar Swain contributed eight points off the bench and Alex Copeland scored seven.

Yale shot 49.2 percent from the field in the game and was able to get out on the fast break.

"The team was running the floor well," said Oni, who was 8-of-15 from the field and 10-of-10 from the foul line. "We have athletes on the wing who like to run, and we've put an emphasis on getting easy baskets in transition."

Mike Smith paced Columbia with 21 points.

Noah Yates' 3-pointer as time expired in the first half sent Yale to the locker room with a 37-27 lead. The Lions made a couple of runs in the second half, but the Bulldogs had an answer every time.

Columbia pulled within three, 61-58, when Kyle Castlin hit two free throws with 7:43 remaining. Yale, though, responded with an 8-2 run, capped by a Swain three-pointer that was the dagger.

Yale then made eight free throws in the final 3:16 to seal the victory.

The Bulldogs were 17-of-17 from the free throw line in the game.

Yale has had to overcome injuries to preseason All-Ivy candidates Makai Mason and Jordan Bruner to reach the Ivy Tournament. Mason, who returned to the lineup last Saturday against Harvard after missing the first 25 games, suffered a set back in practice during the week and did not suit up for either game this weekend. Bruner will miss the entire season after getting injured in Yale's final closed scrimmage a week before the season opener back in November.

"Being able to do what we've done without two starters speaks to the level of players we've been able to bring into the program," said Jones, who was now guided Yale to fourth-place or better finishes in each of the last 18 years.

The Bulldogs, who have won five of their last six games, can now turn their attention to preparing for the postseason.

"We want to keep riding the momentum into next weekend and the Ivy Tournament," Oni said.

Yale closes out the regular season by hosting Penn on Friday and Princeton on Saturday. Tipoff at the John J. Lee Amphitheater is slated for 7 p.m. on both nights.

NOTES: Yale has now won five straight and eight of its last 10 games at Levien Gym… The Bulldogs swept the Cornell-Columbia road trip for the fifth straight year… The Bulldogs will play in the second semifinal against the No. 2 seed on Mar. 10 in the Ivy Tournament. Tipoff is slated for 3 p.m., and the game will be televised on ESPN2. The first semifinal between the No. 1 and No. 4 seeds is a 12:30 p.m. start. The championship game is Sunday, Mar. 11 at noon.

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