Yale pulls off stunner, shocks UConn in Storrs
STORRS – Statistically, the final play from Yale shouldn’t have worked. Especially on the road. And especially against the defending national champions.
Junior guard Jack Montague had missed all six of his field goal attempts, including three tries from behind the three-point line. The Bulldogs had made only 31 percent of their shots and were a woeful 2-of-20 on threes. But this was no ordinary night. It was a night to take the stat sheet, crumple it up, and light it on fire.
With 3.5 seconds left, Montague took the inbounds pass from Javier Duran and nailed a three-pointer from the corner to give Yale a shocking, 45-44, victory over UConn before a stunned and flabbergasted 9,538 at Gampel Pavilion Friday night.
The win for Yale, one of the best in school history, snapped all sorts of streaks. We’ll get to those in a bit. But first, let’s focus on this night itself, one which the Bulldogs led for 36 minutes and frustrated UConn throughout.
“I told the guys no matter how old they get, if they get Alzheimer’s or dementia, they’ll remember this for the rest of the lives,” said Yale head coach James Jones, whose team somehow pulled off the upset despite making only 32.7 percent of their shots.
“It’s been very difficult for any team in the state to come in this building and win a game, let alone anyone else. Coming in, I felt like our team was ready to do it. We’ve been ready to have a signature win."
For the Huskies (3-3), losers of three straight, the final scene was a familiar one. On Sunday, they lost by one to Texas on a last-second three made by Jonathan Holmes from the same corner.
A subdued Kevin Ollie was not thrilled with his team’s defensive execution in the final seconds.
“It was just another miscommunication in the corner,” UConn’s coach said. “That corner is not my favorite corner.”
Ollie said the confusion came between Ryan Boatright and Sam Cassell Jr.
Boatright called for Cassell Jr. to switch over to Montague as the play developed. Cassell Jr. hesitated, but still was able to get a hand in Montague’s face. It was, however, a split-second too late and cost the Huskies dearly.
“It was my fault. I didn’t get over quick enough,” said Cassell Jr., who scored a season-high 12 points off the bench. “Seeing it go in from the same spot (of the Texas loss), that hurt. It was just crazy.”
Montague entered the game shooting 52 percent from three and UConn made it a priority to make life difficult for him. On a night when nothing was going right, he just hoped for one last chance. It’s an opportunity he’ll never forget.
“Our coaches had faith in me,” Montague said. “All of the coaches told me not to worry and that my shots are coming. Even though I had a bad shooting night, the last one ended up pretty good.”
While Yale struggled shooting, it made up for that with effort. The smaller Bulldogs out-rebounded UConn, 36-25, including a ridiculous 13-1 on the offensive boards, a number that especially annoyed Ollie. Justin Sears grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds (eight offensive) to go along with 12 points.
“We’ve got to get tougher as a group,” Ollie said. “I just don’t see it from my frontcourt. I don’t see it from my backcourt. Toughness is not just hitting somebody. Toughness is being mentally tough. As a team right now, we’re not doing it.”
Amida Brimah had his best offensive game of the season, scoring 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting with four of those baskets coming at the rim off of lobs in the second half. Despite a major size advantage in the paint, though, the 7-foot Brimah only recorded four rebounds in 35 minutes. Kentan Facey and Phil Nolan combined for only four rebounds in 40 total minutes of action.
Boatright, coming off an ankle injury against Texas, gave it a go and struggled, finishing with only six points and four turnovers, plus he missed the front end of a one-and-one to help set up Montague’s game-winner. Rodney Purvis returned from injury as well, but went scoreless in eight minutes in the first half and did not return in the second.
“I don’t think the chemistry is what it was like last year,” Brimah said. “We need to come back to practice and work on our games.”
The Huskies will have to live with this loss for nine days before their next game against Coppin State. In the meantime, some big streaks came to an end Friday night.
The loss was the first for UConn against a Connecticut-school opponent in 28 seasons (68 games), with the last coming in 1986 to Hartford. It was the first time the Huskies were defeated by a state-school at Gampel Pavilion and their first loss to Yale in 13 meetings.
UConn had won 44 straight non-conference games in Storrs before falling to Texas on Sunday. Now, they've lost two straight in the span of six days.
“It’s embarrassing,” Ollie said. “We’re at the bottom right now, but I’m not going to give up on this team or give up on myself.”
It can be argued that this was the worst loss UConn has suffered in the 24-year history of Gampel Pavilion. But it can’t be argued that it was one of the greatest triumphs in Yale history.
Not just against UConn, but against all of the numbers.