Dana O'Neil, ESPN Senior Writer 1006d

Yale conjures up a dream win after 54-year tourney drought

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- This is how it looks, the big-shot dream that every little boy conjures in his driveway or at the park.

The crowd is screaming, fans are covering their faces in hope and prayer and the television guys are stage whispering the setup -- game on the line, NCAA tournament hopes in his grasp, Nick Victor steps to the line for underdog Yale.

Swish on the first free throw.

This is not how it ends: Net-skimming, ball-plunking-harmlessly-to-the-floor, audible-gasp-inducing, that-did-not-just-happen airball.

"Yeah, Coach [James Jones] has an award called The Brick for the worst shot in every game," forward Brandon Sherrod said. "I'm pretty sure Nick got that tonight."

Behind Sherrod, Victor sat at his locker and laughed. Everyone did.

"I wasn't nervous, I couldn't tell you what happened," Victor said smiling and shaking his head. "There's no answer. There's no answer."

And now, there doesn't have to be. Victor will collect his brick award at the end-of-season team banquet and, for the rest of his life, look upon it fondly, a souvenir from Yale's 79-75 upset of fifth-seeded Baylor. It was Yale's first NCAA tournament appearance in 54 years, and its first tourney win in school history.

"It's awesome. I can't explain it," Victor said, clearly hit with the emotion of it all. "It's just incredible, especially to do it with these guys."

Until that moment, these guys were known more for what was happening off the court then on. Just as the Bulldogs were winning their final Ivy League weekend to capture the automatic bid, news broke that Jack Montague, their team captain who was expelled in February, was involved in a claim over sexual assault. The team had to answer questions first about his absence, second about T-shirts they wore in support of him after his expulsion, and about his decision to sue the school.

Though Montague was in attendance Thursday, telling ESPN.com's Andy Katz that he didn't care to comment and simply wanted to enjoy his team, no one seemed terribly interested in talking about him afterward.

There was too much else to discuss -- an epic upset, the historical win and Victor, everywhere there was Victor. Sophomore Makai Mason went down as the box-score hero, scoring a career-high 31 points that included nervy shots that might be best described with a Bill Raftery "onions."

But Victor was the man of the moments, both dingy and shining, sandwiching the epically bad with the incredibly good.

And really that's who this Yale team is, not an easy offensive machine but a team built on guts and defense, one that collects little plays instead of hero plays and molds them into a win.

The Bulldogs don't do easy. A year after losing to Dartmouth on the road and then Harvard in a one-game playoff to lose their Ivy automatic bid, they stumbled at Princeton and had to wait until the final weekend to assure their spot in the tournament this season, breaking that five-decade drought.

So why would Victor make it simple?

Simple would have ended a minute earlier.

That's when Baylor and Taurean Prince, finally trying to play with a little bit of intensity, mounted a furious charge from down 14 to within two. Prince, Victor's man to defend, had scored nine in the rally and had the ball in his hand on the right wing with under a minute to play.

But Victor pushed him toward the baseline, slid his feet and established position, knocked on his backside by Prince's drive but earning the charge.

"Did it look like a charge? I thought it was a charge," Victor said. "He didn't agree with me. He argued the call like he should. But he had made a couple of 3s in my face, so I took the charge and it was timely."

Simple would have been timely and over. Instead, Prince got the better of Victor on the next possession, draining another 3 to trim Yale's lead to 76-75 as Victor stepped to the line with 6.8 seconds to play.

And simple would have been swish-swish, just like every boy dreams, right?

"Yeah, yeah he does," Victor said with a heavy sigh.

Instead the airball, a Baylor turnover and one last critical inbounds play for Yale. But when Baylor went to trap at the baseline, Victor snuck down the sideline, catching the baseball pass, securing the upset and setting off the celebration.

"That's not exactly how the dream ends," Victor said. "But it does end with the win. And we got the win."

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