W. hoops wins, then stumbles

The women’s basketball team did its best impression of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde this weekend — leaving Bulldog fans to wonder how two such different performances could come from the same team.

The Elis (6-15, 4-4 Ivy) easily defeated Princeton (5-18, 2-5) at home on Friday, 78-57, at John J. Lee Amphitheater. The Bulldogs came back the next night, however, and lost to Penn (4-18, 1-6), who were previously winless in the Ivy League, 75-67.

To put Saturday’s loss in perspective, Penn had lost Friday, 72-59, at Brown (2-20, 1-7), the same Bears team the Elis had blown out, 72-59, three weeks prior.

Saturday’s troubles were not foreshadowed on Friday, as the Bulldogs were focused after coming into the game on a three-game losing streak and seated in fifth place in the Ivy League.

The first half started out slow, as both teams struggled with their shots early on. After the Elis consistently fell behind on the road in the first half the previous two weeks, it appeared that home-court advantage would not solve this problem either.

With the score at 8-7 Princeton and 12 minutes left, however, guard Jamie Van Horne ’09 took over the game and ignited a huge run for the Bulldogs. In just two and a half minutes, Van Horne scored eight points on two three-pointers and a layup, leaving the Tigers in her dust. Van Horne’s last triple set the score at 18-10 Yale, an advantage the Elis kept the rest of the half, going into the locker room up nine.

The Bulldogs came out flat to begin the second half, allowing Princeton to cut the lead to only five points a little over two minutes into the half. With the Tigers still trailing closely at 40-35 with 14:58 left on the clock, the Elis made a 13-2 run over four and a half minutes to set themselves comfortably ahead.

During the run, guard Ashley Easley ’09 provided the fuel that fed the Bulldog engine. In one consecutive stretch, Easley nailed a jumper on one end, and then took a charge on the other, drawing the praise of the Eli bench. Later in the game, Easley provided the play of the day with a scoop shot while falling to her knees for the basket and foul.

“I try to bring energy to the team in any way possible,” Easley said. “My teammates really helped me get good looks at the basket, and I just focused on finishing my shots.”

Later in the game, forward Melissa Colborne ’10 repeated Van Horne’s first half efforts with her own scoring run. Colborne scored nine points at a little over two minutes as she drove through the Princeton defense for layups, ran the break for easy baskets and completed her own “and one” play, pushing the score to its final margin for the game.

Colborne finished with 18 points on 7-12 shooting, while Van Horne finished with 19 points, including five three-pointers. In the battle of the Ivy League’s top two scorers, Colborne was victorious as Princeton’s Meagan Cowher scored 17 points, matching her scoring average for the season.

While Cowher got her points, the Bulldogs made her work hard for every single one. The Elis fronted Cowher to deny her the ball in the post, forcing her to receive the ball farther away from the basket. Forward Lindsey Williams ’11, forward Haywood Wright ’10 and forward Mady Gobrecht ’11 all took turns guarding Cowher, whose active play caused foul trouble in the Bulldog frontcourt.

“We just tried not to let her catch the ball and not lose track of her around the basket,” Williams said.

Another key to the Elis’ success was improved offensive rebounding, a weakness several players reported after the previous weekends’ games. The Bulldogs shot a poor 28.6 percent from the field in the first half, worse than Princeton’s 33.3 percentage, but still led by nine at the half. The difference was the 15 more shots the Elis took compared to the Tigers, which came from second chances created on the offensive glass. For the game, the Bulldogs grabbed 17 offensive rebounds and out-rebounded the Tigers, 51-33.

“Rebounding has been an emphasis for us all season and we haven’t done enough on the boards in the last couple of games, so we were really focused on doing it this weekend,” Easley said.

With such dominance from the Elis over the Tigers on Friday, it’s hard to believe that Penn, a team that lost to Princeton by 12, would prove much of a threat. But as the old sports cliche goes, “That’s why they play the game.”

The first half of the game continued nicely from the Bulldogs’ strong second half Friday, with the Elis opening a 15-6 lead eight minutes into the game. Such a strong start might have been fueled by the large crowd of 1,004, potentially fueled by the Think Pink theme to raise breast cancer awareness.

The lead continued to grow, reaching a height of 14 points with 6:47 left in the half.

“We were pushing the ball and forcing Penn to play transition defense,” Easley said. “That is what really worked for us against Princeton.”

With the Bulldogs easily controlling the Quakers in the first half, Yale fans could not have expected what was about to unfold in the second half.

The trouble began right away as Penn erased a nine-point Bulldog halftime lead and turned it into a one-point Quaker lead within only four and a half minutes. Penn forward Kelly Scott took over the game during this stretch, stealing the ball twice from Eli players, which resulted in two layups the other way. Scott also nailed two three-pointers during the Quaker run to cap off the Bulldogs’ demise.

The Elis would respond, however, and go on a run of their own to push the lead back up to eight with 12:13 left. The see-saw quickly went back down, though, as Bulldogs found themselves even again with the Quakers at 59-59 with 8:16 left in the game.

From this point, it was all Penn, as the stunned crowd could only look on. The Quakers opened a 10-1 run over the next four minutes. Coach Gobrecht called a 30-second timeout to try to rally her players, but it was too little, too late as the Bulldogs could not make a push over the final four minutes to gain victory.

“We stopped focusing, communicating on the court, crashing the boards and concentrating on the little things we needed to do to win the game,” forward Ashley Carter ’10 said.

After the weekend, the Bulldogs remain in fifth place in the Ivy League. The Eli schedule gets tougher with first and third place Cornell and Columbia visiting New Haven this weekend.

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