A poor showing against Columbia last Friday was just a bump in the road for the women’s basketball team, as they rebounded with a win against league leader Cornell just 24 hours later.
Yale (11-11, 4-4 Ivy) suffered a disappointing defeat at the hands of Columbia (5-17, 1-7), 72-64, on Friday night in what was a lackluster performance by the Elis. But the next night, the home team looked entirely renewed and decisively beat Cornell (9-12, 5-3), 61-45, to pull into fifth in Ivy League standings.
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The starting five against Columbia featured forward Ashley Carter ’10 in place of captain and forward Chinenye Okafor ’07, who was sidelined with a broken toe. Yale experimented with many different lineups to make up for Okafor’s absence, but the Elis lacked the energy and drive to take control of the game.
The Lions’ guards, particularly Shasta Henderson, played very tight on defense, limiting ball movement from point guard Stephanie Marciano ’08 and the other Bulldog guards.
“Their guards were a lot more athletic,” Yale head coach Chris Gobrecht said. “They wanted that game, and they obviously deserved the win.”
Although the Elis did have four players in double digits — led by senior center Erica Davis’ 20-point showing and seventh double-double of the season — they were unable to stay tight on defense and stop the Lions’ aggressive offense. Post player Chelsea Frazier was able to get past Davis’ unsatisfactory defending to drive the ball up the middle and record 15 points.
The first half of play showed Columbia jumping out to an early lead, followed by a small Eli surge. Sophomore guard Jamie Van Horne’s three pointer at the buzzer cut the Lions’ six-point lead to just one, leaving the Elis with a 38-37 halftime deficit from which they were unable to recover.
Van Horne sunk another long ball at the opening of the second half to give the Elis the lead for the first time since the 11th minute of the match. But the home team did not step up from their poor performance in the opening stanza, and Columbia took control of the game seven minutes in, turning a one-point gap into a 69-59 lead, their largest of the game. The Bulldogs only hurt their cause late in the game when they fouled the Lions on almost every attempt at the basket, for a total of six fouls in the last three minutes.
“We forgot how hard we had to work to play well,” Gobrecht said. “We didn’t give Columbia enough credit, and we were kind of put out that they played like that.”
The Bulldogs left the court disappointed as they conceded their third straight loss to a squad that had not won a conference game before Friday.
“We just weren’t playing smart,” guard Kaitlyn Lillemoe ’09 said. “We just need to refocus ourselves and forget about tonight and play our game [on Saturday].”
The squad that took the floor on Saturday night looked completely different from Friday’s losing team. Bolstered by the YPMB, the cheerleading squad and a large crowd, the Elis left the gates with a lot of energy. A Davis block 40 seconds after the tip was the first of nine for her, as she fell one block short of the first triple-double in program history.
The defensive effort was much more of a team contribution on Saturday than in the match against the Lions, as the Elis increased their defensive boards by 13. But the Bulldogs had some trouble getting the ball in the basket from the post positions because the Cornell consistently collapsed on the ball inside.
The Big Red’s two strong forwards, Jeomi Maduka and Allie Fedorowicz, were the main scoring threats from Cornell, totalling nine and 10 points, respectively. Beacuse of the squad’s fast-paced, high-energy style of play, the Elis fell behind early and trailed for much of the first half.
But with eight minutes left in the half, Davis went on a seven-point run to put the Bulldogs in the lead for the remainder of the game. Okafor — who saw the floor for 13 minutes — assisted a three-pointer by Van Horne with 2:41 on the clock to cement the Elis’ lead in the first half. Then a Marciano basket with less than a minute remaining pushed the Yale lead to eight points heading into the break, 29-21.
“The energy was totally different from the Columbia game,” Davis said. “We weren’t attacking [the Lions], we were just playing to get through it. Against Cornell, there was a lot more talk and a lot more help on D. We were prepared for the fact that they were going to attack us individually and play a more one-on-one game.”
Going into the second half, the Elis simply dominated the game. The squad was able to get out of tight spots on defense by getting boards and playing a long pass upcourt, staying a step ahead of the Big Red defenders.
The Bulldog defense was also on top of things on Saturday. In one 30-second stretch, Davis recorded three blocks en route to a nine-block, 25-point, 13-board night. The guard play from the Elis was effective, with Van Horne playing tight defense and Marciano setting up the post players well to record five assists — second only to Okafor’s six feeds.
The Bulldogs led by as many as 19 points in the half and, cheered on by the boisterous bleachers, broke their three-game slide with a decisive victory against the then-Ivy League leading Big Red.
“It was a good team win,” Okafor said. “If we play like that the rest of the season, we’ll be OK.”