Before the start of every game, the women’s basketball team huddles together and chants, “Defense, defense, rebound!” Those two factors proved to be key this weekend, as strong defensive performances and solid rebounding helped the Bulldogs earn two league wins.
The Elis (10–12, 6–2 Ivy) knocked off Harvard (13–8, 5–2) and Dartmouth (5–16, 1–6) to earn the weekend sweep at home. The two wins vaulted the Bulldogs up from a third-place tie with Columbia to second place in the Ivy League standings, just a half-game behind Princeton.
“It was really nice [to get the sweep] because we had two tough teams this weekend,” guard Megan Vasquez ’13 said. “Harvard was a really emotional game, and it meant a lot to us. But we had to beat Dartmouth to really make the Harvard win count.”
The weekend began with a meeting against archrival Harvard. The Elis’ strong first-half defense held the Crimson to just 19 points in the first half and allowed the Bulldogs to build a 20-point lead at halftime. Though Harvard found its offensive groove in the second half, the deficit proved too great to overcome, as the Elis emerged with an 82–71 win. It was the Crimson’s first Ivy League loss of the season.
“It’s a huge win,” forward Janna Graf ’14 said. “I’m just a freshman, so it’s my first time playing against Harvard, but it feels great. I think everyone is really happy to beat Harvard.”
Graf scored a game-high 21 points in the contest and also tallied seven assists and six rebounds. Vasquez added 13 points and six boards, while forwards Mady Gobrecht ’11 and Michelle Cashen ’12 chipped in with 11 points apiece. Guard Aarica West ’13 totaled nine points, seven assists and three steals.
Harvard forward Victoria Lippert paced the Crimson, scoring 18 points and grabbing eight boards. Guard Brogan Berry also added 16 points and seven assists.
The Bulldogs opened the game by jumping out to a 9–2 lead behind five points from West and layups from Gobrecht and Cashen. The Crimson worked their way back into the game after Berry and Emma Markley cut Yale’s lead to 13–10 with 11:03 left, but after that it was all Yale for the remainder of the half.
Over the next four minutes, the Elis outscored the Crimson 14–4 run to go up 27–14 at the 5:39 mark. Yale also locked down on defense, scoring 14 points off 10 Harvard turnovers in the first half. “I thought we had tremendous defensive energy in the first half,” head coach Chris Gobrecht said. “They’re an outstanding offensive team. I just thought we were so energized in the way we jumped on them that they were very off balanced offensively.”
The Bulldogs closed out the half with an 11–2 run over the final 5:23 to go into the locker room with a commanding 39–19 edge.
Harvard reduced the deficit to 45–31 following a layup from Lippert at the 15:23 mark, but the Bulldogs pushed their lead back up to 20 after Vasquez hit a shot from beyond the arc two minutes later.
Still, Harvard used strong shooting to chip away at Yale’s lead. The Crimson shot 62.2 percent from the field in the second half. A layup from Markley and a three-pointer from Lippert brought the Crimson within 10 points with 2:48 left to play.
“It was good that we had that 20-point lead heading into half,” Graf said. “We let up a little on defense, but they were also hitting some shots.”
Harvard trimmed the deficit to eight points after Berry converted a three-point play with 1:06 left, but the Bulldogs were able to hit the free throws they needed down the stretch to secure the win.
The Elis returned to action the following night to host a struggling Dartmouth team on Pink Zone day. The matchup proved to be a battle of sophomore guards, as Vasquez and Dartmouth’s Faziah Steen each scored 21 points for their team. In the end, however, it was the Bulldogs who came out on top with a 66–53 win behind another strong defensive effort.
“I thought Dartmouth really came to play,” coach Gobrecht said. “When you play Dartmouth when they’re that determined, you’re going to have a battle, and that’s what we had.”
In addition to Vasquez’s 21 points, Graf also netted 15 points and eight rebounds. Gobrecht added 11 boards and seven assists, while Cashen grabbed 12 rebounds and five steals.
Steen also had three assists, four steals and three blocks for the Big Green, while forward Cassie Cooper tallied a double-double, with 10 points and 10 boards.
After Dartmouth took an early 10–7 lead, the Bulldogs countered with a 12–2 run that gave them a 19–12 advantage.
Still, the Big Green battled back, and a layup from Janelle Ross pulled Dartmouth within five points with 7:05 left in the half. But Yale outscored Dartmouth 12–6 to close out the half and build an 11-point lead at halftime.
Yale’s defense held the Big Green to just 21.2 percent shooting in the first half.
Dartmouth had a strong start to the second half and used a 6–2 run to cut the deficit to 35–28, but Yale pushed its lead back up to double digits after guard Allie Messimer ‘13 sank a three-point shot that gave the Bulldogs a 40–30 edge.
After that, the Big Green never seriously threatened the Bulldogs’ lead. The two teams traded baskets for the remainder of the game, allowing the Elis to maintain their lead and come away with the weekend sweep.
The Bulldogs are now halfway through league play and currently sit in second place in the conference standings. The Elis have a key road trip coming up this weekend, as they will travel to Princeton on Friday; the winner will take sole possession of first place in the Ivy League.
“6–2 is nice; of course, I think we wish we could be better,” coach Gobrecht said. “I think we have a very, very tough second half [of the season coming up]. If we learned what we needed to learn from those two losses, then we have a shot of getting through this second half of playing four of our last six games on the road. The next two weekends are where we’ll find out what we’re made of.”
Tip-off against Princeton is slated for Friday night at 6 p.m. in Princeton, N.J. The Bulldogs will travel to Penn the following night for a 7 p.m. matchup.