Justin Sears awarded again as Yale continued to roll, but without its captain

Justin Sears was named Ivy League Player of the Year on Wednesday. (AP Photo)

By Joel Alderman

Another weekend sweep for the suddenly captain less Yale basketball team, another Player of the Week award for Justin Sears, and even three votes for the Bulldogs in the top-25 poll.

Those are some of the accomplishments chalked up by the Bulldogs, who have now won 12 straight and still rest alone in first place with six games remaining in the Ivy League’s “14-game tournament.”

21 points back-to-back

Sears had back-to-back 21-point performances while Yale was beating Dartmouth and Harvard on the road. Against Dartmouth he added 13-rebounds, three assists and three blocks in his team’s come from behind 75-65 victory.

Then on Saturday his 14 first half points propelled Yale to an 11-point lead at the intermission, which never went below double digits as Yale cruised to a 67-55 win over Harvard. That one kept in check some unpleasant memories of last year when the Crimson kept Yale out of the NCAA tournament by winning the special play-in game.
Sears, the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year, is building an almost insurmountable record for a repeat as POTY. He has already been named the Player of the Week 14 times in his career.
He is high among the Ivy’s statistical leaders. Sears is fourth in scoring average (16.5 ppg), 9th in rebounds (6.9 average), 6th in field goal percentage (.524), 2nd in blocked shots (1.7), and 1st in offensive rebounds (3.6).

Three top-25 votes and other team achievements

An unexpected bonus for Yale is that it was given three votes in the latest Associated Press Top-25 national poll. That puts the Bulldogs in the “honorable mention” category.
In addition to being 8-0 in the Ivy League, the team of Coach James Jones has amassed a 17-5 overall record, and is on a 12-game winning streak. That total is just one short of the school record, which has stood longer than any of us has been around (110 years).

Yale is in strange company

Only two other teams in the country are undefeated in their conferences. Stony Brook is 12-0 in America East and Stephen F. Austin has the same record in the Southland Conference.

Yale’s budding star, Makai Mason

Certainly not lost is the performances of Sears last weekend was point guard Makai Mason. In the Dartmouth win he scored 20 of his career-high 25 points in the second half, and the next night he added 15 against Harvard. His efforts resulted in being named to the Ivy League honor roll.

The mystery of Captain Montague

Making the Yale weekend all the more remarkable was that the two road wins came while its captain, Jack Montague was not with the team. So far, neither Yale, Coach James Jones, or Montague himself is saying why, except that is was for something “personal.” Anthony Dallier filled in capably, but that meant Yale’s reserve strength was affected. And Dallier is not the 3-point marksman that Montague is, but few are.

Montague being out of action could mean a multitude of things, and has led to a lot of speculation on the Yale campus. However, in this era, protecting a person’s rights of privacy is of utmost importance. So it may be some time, if ever, that we will know for certain. To compound the mystery, no one is saying when or even if he will be back.

This development comes on the week leading to Yale’s most difficult challenge, which comes on Friday against Princeton. The Tigers, whose only loss in the league was a close one at Yale, could be said to have stolen one against Columbia in overtime in their last game.

Their Jadwin Gym, which is extremely difficult for visiting teams to play in because of its overall size and shooting background, has been a graveyard for many years for Yale and other opposing teams.

The Bulldogs will have to overcome Jadwin, a very tough Princeton team, and, quite likely, no contributions from Montague.

Nothing is easy in the 14-game tournament, known as Ivy League basketball.

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