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Atkinson Beats Buzzer, Yale Beats Penn 80-79

Paul Atkinson's game-winning layup (Don Clark photo)
Paul Atkinson's game-winning layup (Don Clark photo)

Bulldogs Knock Off First Place Quakers In Thriller

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – If Friday's Yale-Penn game is a preview of what's in store at next weekend's Ivy League Tournament, wow, it will be quite a two days at the Palestra. Paul Atkinson's layup with three-tenths-of-a-second left lifted the Bulldogs to a wild, 80-79 victory over the first-place Quakers before a highly entertained crowd at the John J. Lee Amphitheater.

Yale had trailed by seven with just 2:38 remaining but rallied for the exhilarating victory.

The winning play came after Azar Swain forced a Penn turnover with three seconds remaining and the Bulldogs trailing by one. Blake Reynolds then sent a cross-court inbounds pass to Miye Oni, who made a quick move into the lane and found Atkinson, who finished with a layup, setting off pandemonium on the Yale side.

The referees reviewed the play and put three-tenths of a second on the clock, but the Quakers weren't able to get off a shot in time.

"Coach [Jones] drew up a great play, and we executed it," said Oni, who finished with 23 points, 12 rebounds and two assists.

It was a play the Yale was familiar with.

"We've worked on it in practice, and it worked perfectly," said James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of the Bulldogs.

The winning shot capped a big night for Atkinson, who had 17 points, six rebounds, three assists and three blocks in 33 very productive minutes.

Atkinson, a first year, said he had also made a game-winning shot during his days at Westminster Academy in Florida.

Yale, which has now won six of its last seven games, came into the night locked in as the No. 3 seed in next weekend's Ivy Tournament. The Bulldogs, though, were intent on keeping that positive momentum going.

There was more at stake for the Quakers, who were looking to take another step toward earning the league's regular season championship. The loss, coupled with Harvard's overtime victory over Cornell, leaves Penn and Harvard tied for first-place heading into the final day of the regular season. The Crimson own the tiebreaker if the two teams are still tied following Saturday's games. That would make Harvard the No. 1 seed in the tournament. Under that scenario, the Bulldogs and Quakers would meet again next Saturday in the second semifinal of the tournament.

For much of the night, it looked like Penn was on its way to a victory. The Quakers had a 12-point lead, 33-21, with 5:47 left in the first half. Yale, though, closed the half on a 13-2 run to head to locker room trailing only 35-34.

The lead went back-and-forth for the first 13 minutes of the second half before Penn pushed the advantage to seven, 71-64, with 2:38 left.

In all, the Quakers had the lead for more than 35 minutes.

"We've lost a few games [this year] where I thought we were in control so it was nice to take one," Jones said.

This will serve as another learning experience for a young Bulldog squad.

"We've been better in late game situations," Oni said. "We know what it takes to get the win."

Trey Phills quietly paced the Bulldogs with 24 points. Seventeen of his points came in the second half to help keep Yale in the game.

Oni scored 18 of his points in the second half.

Darnell Foreman and Caleb Wood paced the Quakers with 21 points apiece.

NOTES: Yale outrebounded the Quakers 41-27… The Bulldogs also got to the foul line 32 times… It was an exciting start to Alumni and Senior Weekend. Yale's three seniors will be honored prior to Saturday's game with Princeton… Friday's game was broadcast nationally on the Westwood One radio network. The color commentator was former Yale coach Tom Brennan, who later went on to lead Vermont's program… Saturday's Yale-Princeton game is a 7 p.m. tip and can be viewed on both the Ivy League Network and ESPN3… Things broke right for the Tigers on Friday. They defeated Brown and remain in the hunt for the fourth and final spot in the Ivy League Tournament.

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