A quick start to the second half went a long way in helping the Yale men's basketball team open the season on a positive note. The Bulldogs used a 16-1 run over the first six minutes to build a 46-35 lead and went on to a 73-69 victory over Central Connecticut at the Connecticut 6 Classic at Mohegan Sun Arena.
"We got off to a slow start, but I thought in the second half we really toughened up," said James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Men's Basketball. "We did a good job of handling their pressure, which really helped us."
After shooting just 38.7 percent in the first half, Yale was 15-of-28 (53.6 percent) over the final 20 minutes.
"We got the jitters out of the way in the first half," said Mangano, who posted his 16th career double-double. "We knew they were an aggressive, physical and quick team. We prepared for their pressure and really settled down in the second half."
The 21 points matched Willhite's career high, and he also was outstanding on the defensive end.
"In practice, I always feel sorry for whoever I match Reggie with during one-on-one drills," Jones said. "He's still mad at me because he didn't win our defensive player of the year award last year. For him to have the wherewithal to do what he did offensively was special."
Kyle Vinales paced the Blue Devils with 24 points, while reigning Northeast Conference Player of the Year Ken Horton added 21 points and nine rebounds.
The Bulldogs (1-0) took their biggest lead of the game, 53-39, on Austin Morgan's three-pointer with 11:47 left. Central, though, slowly cut into the lead, and Vinales three-point play with 1:31 remaining pulled CCSU within 67-66.
Yale scored the next five points, all from the foul line. Willhite hit one and Morgan and Mangano each made two.
Vinales' layup made it a one possession game with nine seconds left, but Mangano hit one-of-two free throws with five seconds left to seal the victory.
"We talked about not relenting, and I thought our guys did a good job," Jones said. "We made some free throws and did some good things down the stretch, and I feel pretty good about that."
The victory was Yale's first in three tries at the Connecticut 6.
"We've felt a buzz in the locker room and around practice, and this is a step in the right direction," Willhite said. "But to win our first game is all we could hope for at this point. We know we have another tough game coming up."