Yilret Yiljep provides key spark in final season
Veteran forward continues to shine off the bench in win over Lehigh
The AU men’s basketball team got off to a slow start in their win at home against Lehigh on Monday afternoon, missing eight of their first 10 shots, along with two quick turnovers.
But when forward Yilret Yiljep came into the game at the 13-minute mark, the grad student provided a much-needed jolt of energy.
Yiljep finished the game with a double-double, scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, both of which were career highs.
“It feels great and it makes coming back all worth it,” said Yiljep on his double-double. “I’ve been working the last year and a half on my body and trying to get back in shape, so you know, it makes it all worth it.”
This was not the first time that Yiljep provided a spark off the bench for the Eagles. AU found itself in a similar situation Saturday against Colgate after falling behind by 17 points in the beginning of the second half. It was not until Yiljep checked into the game that AU began to make a comeback. Though the Eagles ultimately fell short, they seemed to play their best basketball when Yiljep was on the floor.
“The impact Y.Y. has when he comes in is explosive,” said guard Sa’eed Nelson. “Everybody notices it, the bench, the crowd, I notice it. It’s a great energy boost to have [him] coming off the bench and he’s been playing great this year.”
Yiljep’s impact wasn’t exclusive to the offensive end, though. While he did not record any blocks in the game, Yiljep contested multiple plays at the rim that turned into missed shots.
He also made his presence known on the boards. For the Eagles that ranks dead last in the Patriot League in rebounding this season, the 10 boards he grabbed Monday night were huge, especially against Lehigh, a team that ranks in the top five of that same category.
“Y.Y. is a veteran, he’s been around, so he understands the importance of every possession, the importance of just energy and playing hard.” said AU head coach Mike Brennan. “Things don’t always go your way and you’ve got to keep battling and that’s what he’s been doing since he’s been here at AU.”
AU’s next game comes on the road against Lafayette on Saturday, another opportunity for Yiljep to step up in a big way.