The Yale Bulldogs pulled out with a 83-80 win over the Lion’s on Sunday night. Reigning Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year, Bez Mbeng had it going all night and ultimately solidified the win for the Bulldogs. Up 81-80 with thirty seconds left in regulation, Coach James Jones put the fate of the game in Mbeng who had the hot hand all night. Mbeng ran down the clock as he dribbled at the top of the key until the 11 second mark where he drove by Justice Hill to hit a contested jumper to silence the crowd and give the Bulldogs a three point lead. The next possession, Will Johnston missed a three point field goal at the buzzer to tie it up for the Lions. The Lions had no answer for Mbeng as he finished with a game high 28 points (17 in the second half) while shooting 66% from the field and perfectly from three and the free throw line, after playing 33 minutes.
The LMU Lions lost their first game of the season on Sunday, November 12, putting them at 1-1 for the season. It was a hard fought game with many lead changes up until the final two minutes of the game when the Bulldogs ultimately pulled ahead to claim the victory.
The first half was very close as Yale took a 46-43 lead into halftime after guard John Poulakidas made a three pointer with four seconds left in the half. The two teams were almost identical in the box score as they both finished the half with seven assists, two blocks, one steal each, and both teams shot 16-30 (53%) from the field. The rebounding battle was also very close as both teams finished with three offensive rebounds while Yale finished with 13 total to LMU’s 11. Yale was able to take advantage from the free throw line, shooting 10-13 to LMU’s just 6-9.
Transfer guard Dominick Harris led the way for the Lions in the first half with 12 points. Dominick Harris and Justin Wright had 20 of the Lions 43 first half points to keep them within striking range considering senior captains Keli Leaupepe and Alex Merkviladze combined for just six points in the first half.
Leaupepe and Merkviladze continued to struggle in the second half. When asked about the struggles from his veteran captains, Coach Johnson was not too worried about them going forward.
“I know those guys are hurting cause they wanted to play better but they didn’t tonight. The thing I know about them is they’ll bounce back. Some night’s you have it, some nights’ you don’t. Tonight it just didn’t fall for them,” said Johnson.
The two collectively scored just 13 points, 5-17 from the field for the night.
A highlight from Sunday night’s loss was the high production that came from the backcourt. Depth in the backcourt is what kept the Lions in the game, as four of the five Lions to reach double figure scoring were guards. Dominck Harris led the way with 21 points, while Justin Wright poured in 11, and Justice Hill and Will Johnston both contributed 10.
During the postgame conference, Coach Johnson was asked about balancing playing time considering he has so many talented players at the guard position.
“Our team, we don’t have starters and subs. We have starters, we have finishers,” Johnson said.
Despite not pulling out with the win, there were many positive signs for the Lions’ in their loss to Yale. The Lions were a -11 in the free throw battle in just a three point loss. If the Lions are able to limit their fouling and give their opponents easy points at the line, they will have a promising season. In a game where star wings Leaupepe and Merkviladze were struggling, other Lion’s like Harris and Thiemann were able to pick up their scoring load and keep the team in the game.
“We had every chance to win tonight but you gotta give Yale credit they were the more disciplined team,” Said Johnson.