Despite 39 minutes and 57 seconds of back-and-forth basketball both Friday and Saturday night, a few clutch free throws in the last three seconds of each game statistically destroyed any lingering hope of an Ancient Eight crown for the women’s basketball team.
The Elis (11-15, 4-8 Ivy) fell to Cornell (12-13, 8-4), 59-55, and Columbia (8-18, 4-8), 66-64, after holding the upper hand in both games until the last few minutes. In Ithaca on Friday, seven late Big Red free throws in the final two minutes buried the Elis. But in Morningside Heights, it was a last minute trey by the Lions and a controversial call that spelled defeat for the Bulldogs, who will complete their season 0-7 on the road against conference opponents.
On Friday night, a small crowd of 300 in upstate New York saw the Bulldogs dominate the first half of play, as they maintained a lead for all but six minutes. Led by efficient field goal shooting and an impressive 5-for-6 mark from the charity stripe, the Bulldogs finished ahead at the half, 34-31, for just the second time on the road in conference play.
Despite four Yale starters surging toward double-digit figures, problems began to mount early after the break. Following a series of strong performances from behind the three point line, the team could only muster a single trey in 11 attempts, going a dismal 0-for-5 in the second stanza. On top of that, the Bulldogs let the Big Red bench tear up the court and conceded some opportune free throws to the home squad. Cornell reserves were responsible for 19 points, 14 from overall high-scorer Jeomi Maduka. Forward Shannan Scarselletta recorded the only double-double for the night, pulling down 11 boards and leading her squad to a 40-28 edge in rebounding over the Elis.
“We played very hard, even with our shooting not being on,” forward Ashley Carter ’10 said. “But we let them get too many offensive rebounds.”
This back-and-forth contest, which featured 13 lead changes, was ultimately decided by free throws. The Elis fouled their opponents five times in the last two minutes, coughing up seven points in the process. Down 57-55 after a Stephanie Marciano ’08 layup with five seconds to go, the Elis fouled Maduka, who sunk both shots and put the game out of reach for Yale.
In almost an identical situation the next day in Manhattan, the Bulldogs found themselves down by one with 34 seconds on the clock after a trey by guard Brittney Carfora. But with the victory within reach, the referees made a controversial call, changing what was originally a jump ball into an Eli foul with just five seconds to go. Forward Becky Hogue sunk one of two to give the Lions “an insurmountable lead,” as their continuously heckling band called it, with three seconds remaining.
Prior to the final frustrating seconds, the Bulldogs had held their own against Columbia. Three players scored 14 or more points, and forward Sara McCollum ’08 posted her first double-double in over a year.
The Elis, who have been trying to create more possessions after losing captain and forward Chinenye Okafor ’07 to a broken toe, were able to do so effectively for the first time since her injury. The Bulldog guards played a large role in getting the ball to the basket, often taking it inside themselves, and maintained good movement on and off the ball throughout the night.
“The guards did a really good job generating on defense and getting layups at the other end,” McCollum said.
But their usually trustworthy long game continued to falter against the Lions, and the squad only managed to sink one of its five attempts from beyond the arc. Columbia used the three-pointer to their advantage, draining eight. In the end, one of those long balls made all the difference.
“They were two tough losses because we could have won both,” Gobrecht said. “We should have won both.”