Ivy League does it again as No. 13 seed Yale takes down No. 4 seed Auburn 78-76


SPOKANE, Wash. — A year ago, Yale’s John Poulakidas and August Mahoney were stuck at home watching the Ivy League champion make a magical NCAA Tournament run.

The two Bulldogs wanted a taste of what that was like. Given the opportunity on Friday, they helped Yale become the latest Ivy League champion to bust some March Madness brackets.

Poulakidas scored 28 points, Samson Aletan made a key block during a wild scramble in the final seconds, and 13th-seeded Yale rallied in the final five minutes to take down No. 4 seed Auburn 78-76 in the first round on Friday.

For the second straight year, the Ivy League Tournament champion took down one of the pre-tournament favorites. Last year it was Princeton toppling Arizona.

This time, it was Yale’s turn.

“Princeton made the Sweet 16 last year and we were at home, they beat us in the championship, and each and every one of the guys in the locker room were just itching to get our opportunity,” Mahoney said. “Our opportunity presented itself. We know how good we are, so we believed.”

The Bulldogs (23-9) won an NCAA Tournament game for the second time in school history, rallying from a 10-point deficit midway through the second half. After the final seconds ticked off, the players celebrated on the scorer’s table in front of their fans.

Yale will face No. 5 seed San Diego State in the second round on Sunday.

“It’s a great opportunity to be here. I think after I hit my first couple shots, obviously the flood gates opened,” Poulakidas said. “But I’m just so glad that we had this opportunity first and could capitalize on it tonight.”

Poulakidas hit big shot after big shot. His step-back 3-pointer with 2:10 left gave the Bulldogs a 73-72 lead. Yale never trailed again, despite a chaotic final stretch that included Auburn getting off two shots in the closing seconds following a missed free throw, one of which was rejected by Aletan.

Auburn’s K.D. Johnson had a contested look for a winning 3-pointer at the buzzer that was offline.

Johni Broome led Auburn (27-8) with 24 points and 13 rebounds, but he was crumpled on the court after the loss. It looked as if he might have injured his right knee in the final scrum. Auburn coach Bruce Pearl was uncertain when asked about the severity of the injury.

Auburn also played most of the game without starting wing Chad Baker-Mazara after he was ejected for a Flagrant 2 foul in the opening minutes. Pearl agreed it was a flagrant, but didn’t believe it should have been raised to the level of an ejection.

“It was inappropriate. Clearly a Flagrant 1. The fact that it was elevated to a Flagrant 2 was a decision that the official had to make, but it obviously had tremendous impact on the outcome,” Pearl said.

Auburn rolled through the SEC Tournament last week and became a favored pick as a team that could take down No. 1 overall seed UConn should the pair end up clashing in the Sweet 16.

But the Tigers failed to get out the first round and joined fellow SEC schools South Carolina, Kentucky, Florida and Mississippi State amid the early departures from March Madness.

Auburn led 68-58 with 7:27 left after Denver Jones hit a 3-pointer, but the Tigers were outscored 20-8 the rest of the way. Auburn did itself no favors by missing five free throws in the final 3½ minutes.

Yale’s rally started with a 3-pointer from Bez Mbeng, a 24% shooter from beyond the arc this season. Poulakidas hit a couple of jumpers and Dustin Wolf’s free throws pulled Yale even at 70-70.

Broome scored for Auburn but Poulakidas answered with his 3 and the Bulldogs made 5 of 6 free throws in the final minute.

Mahoney added 14 points and Wolf finished with 13 before fouling out late.

“I don’t know if that’s the best win in Yale basketball history, but I will tell you that’s the best basketball team that we’ve beaten in Yale basketball history, as far as I’m concerned,” Yale coach James Jones said.

Jones scored 17 for Auburn and Jaylin Williams added 13, but the Tigers clearly missed Baker-Mazara Replays showed that Baker-Mazara appeared to throw an elbow toward Mahoney as the pair ran downcourt and officials had a lengthy review before announcing the ejection.

UP NEXT

For the second straight year, a No. 13 seed will try to take down San Diego State in the second round. Last year Furman fell short in its attempt to knock off the Aztecs.

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness



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