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Yale upsets Baylor, 79–75, in NCAA tournament first round

The Bulldogs Bears beat the Bulldogs Bears in the first round of the NCAA tournament and will face Duke on Saturday.

What happened

Yale sophomore point guard Makai Mason scored 31 points as the No. 12 Bulldogs upset No. 5 Baylor, 79–75, in a West Region matchup at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence. Yale came out firing against a Bears team with superior length and athleticism. Mason knocked down seven of his first 12 shots for 17 points in the first half, and forwards Brandon Sherrod and Justin Sears tallied 18 points and nine rebounds to give the Bulldogs a strong presence inside against Bears senior big man Rico Gathers. After taking a five-point lead into the break, Yale weathered an early surge by Baylor and then retook control midway through the second half. A three-point shot from Blake Reynolds gave the Bulldogs a six-point advantage around the 13-minute mark, and then Yale kept exploiting Baylor inside, with Sears converting a layup with just under nine minutes remaining to make it a nine-point edge. Wing Taurean Prince sparked the Bears with a powerful putback dunk a few minutes later and Baylor cut the Bulldogs’ lead to one inside the final minute, but Sherrod hit a pair of key free throws late to seal the win.

Why it mattered

This was basically a home game for Yale, which only had to travel 81 miles from New Haven, Conn., to Providence, R.I. Meanwhile, the Bears trekked more than 1,500 miles from Waco, Tex. How much that disparity affected the outcome is unclear, but for most of the game Yale looked like the better team than Baylor—which was also upset by a double-digit seed, No. 14 Georgia State, in last year’s tourney. Mason kept creating offense in the halfcourt against the Bears’ defense, and the Bulldogs competed on the glass against a Baylor team that entered ranked third in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. The Bulldogs—playing under the shadow of a controversy over their senior captain’s expulsion for alleged sexual misconduct—are making their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1962 after winning the Ivy League.​

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What’s next

Yale will face No. 4 seed Duke on Saturday in Providence. The Bulldogs fell to the Blue Devils, 80–61, in Durham, N.C., in November. Duke handled UNC Wilmington, 93–85, in its first-round matchup earlier on Thursday.