PROVIDENCE, R.I -- With 14:29 left in the game, Brandon Sherrod took a seat on the Yale bench alongside Justin Sears. Somewhere in the Dunkin Donuts Center, expelled team captain Jack Montague sat in the stands, watching.
That trio accounts for virtually all of the Bulldogs’ leadership, not to mention three of the team’s top four scorers.
Yet with their first NCAA tournament game in 54 years in the hands of mostly underclassmen, the Bulldogs stretched their then two-point lead over Baylor to nine.
There are two ways for Cinderella to win in the NCAA tournament: Play a flawless basketball game, or play harder than your opponent.
Yale did both, which is why the 12th-seeded Bulldogs scored the first upset of this tournament, topping No. 5 seed Baylor 79-75.
This was a classic game of looks being deceiving. With its Ivy League pedigree and non-scholarship roster, Yale isn’t going to scare anyone out of the building. Taurean Prince and Rico Gathers? They do. But Yale has been physically tough all year, building its Ivy championship season on the backbone of defense and rebounding.
That’s how the Bulldogs won this game. They outrebounded by four a team that based on appearances should have dominated the boards.
But Baylor couldn’t get position inside to corral its own misses. And about those misses -- there were a lot. The Bears shot just 37 percent in the second half -- some were missed chip shots, but more were contested shots by a Yale team that simply did not beat itself on a single possession.
Baylor did just the opposite.
The Bears had too many one-shot possessions, settling for jumpers instead of trying to attack the rim. It would discredit Yale’s effort to say Baylor took the Bulldogs lightly, but it sure looked like it did. The Bears finally started to play with abandon with two minutes to play, mounting a furious comeback by throwing a full-court trap that threatened the upset.
By then, it was too late. Yale already had put together the perfect one-two Cinderella punch, playing smart and hard to move into the second round.