The Bulldogs started this weekend off on the right foot, extending their winning streak to three with a 72–60 win at Penn on Friday — only to run into a brick wall at Princeton the next day.
The Tigers proved too much for the Elis (12–8, 4–2 Ivy) to handle as they fell 72–47, dropping to third place in the Ivy League.
“We stayed pretty close to them for most of the game,” guard Aarica West ’13 said. “We fought hard in the beginning, but in the second half we just didn’t have enough in us to stay in the game. All we can do now is remember what this feels like and come back at them next time.”
In all four of their Ivy League wins this season, the Elis have trailed at halftime but come out strong in the second half to take the lead quickly. Friday’s game at Penn stuck to that model, as the Bulldogs went into the half down 27–25, but went on a 15–3 run to jump to a 10-point lead in the first six minutes after the break.
“Every time that we’ve been down in the first half and then come back it’s been because we were either too antsy or were playing hard but not with our heads,” West said. “Coach [Chris Gobrecht] has been telling us at halftime that we need to settle down and focus more on the game.”
Yale was lucky to be down by only two at halftime after Penn (8–11, 1–4 Ivy) outrebounded the Elis 30-17 in the first half. The Quakers grabbed 14 offensive rebounds, but good defense from the Bulldogs prevented them from converting those extra opportunities into a bigger lead. The Elis held Penn to only 28.6 percent shooting in the first half, but were only able to make 10 of their own 31 attempts from the floor.
After halftime, though, the Bulldogs’ offense turned up the heat. Guard Megan Vasquez ’13 scored 17 of her game-high 19 points in the second half, and the Elis shot a blistering 51.7 percent from the field. The team made 14 of 15 free throws in the second period to complete the effort and prevent Penn from climbing back into the game.
Yale held its lead to around eight or nine points for most of the second half and never let the Quakers build any significant momentum to mount a comeback. With a minute left in the game, Penn pulled within six on a three-pointer by freshman Jackie Kates but was forced to foul to try to get the ball back. Vasquez made both of her free throws to push the lead back to eight. When the Quakers sent Janna Graf ’14 to the line first with 40 and then 26 seconds remaining, she made all four of her free throws to put the game out of reach.
The Penn victory gave head coach Chris Gobrecht her 499th career victory and set the stage for a battle for first place on Saturday with Princeton. Yale put up a good fight, but the Tigers (15–4, 5–0 Ivy) reminded everyone why they have only had one Ivy League loss in the past three seasons. Princeton jumped out to an 8–0 lead in the first two minutes, but the Bulldogs responded with two layups from Vasquez and two three-pointers from Graf to tie the game up at 10–10. From that point on, Princeton started to pull away, but Yale stuck with the Tigers for the rest of the first half, preventing the game from getting out of hand.
Once again, the Bulldogs went into halftime behind, only this time there was no big run to open up the second half and pull them back into the game. It was Princeton that scored four of the first five baskets of the second half, and the Bulldogs were never able to recover.
“We’re a team that can be slow out of the gates at times,” guard Sarah Halejian ’15 said, “and we never got that spark [Saturday] night. It just wasn’t there for us.”
Princeton, whose starters average just under 6’0” in height, dominated inside and outrebounded Yale 61–30. The Bulldogs also struggled to score against Princeton’s tight defense. They shot only 25 percent from the floor and made only one field goal during the last seven minutes.
One bright spot for the Elis, however, was the return of guard Hayden Latham ’15, who missed the last eight games with a concussion. Latham played 12 minutes in her first game back and finished with three points and three rebounds. Halejian said that Latham’s return gives the team a much-needed boost going forward.
“We’ve definitely been missing her a whole lot,” Halejian said. “It’s great to have more bodies, but she’s also a really good player, and we’ve really been lacking her presence. She looked good [Saturday] night too, so hopefully she’s able to continue to play well.”
The Bulldogs return home next weekend after playing their last four contests away from John J. Lee amphitheater. They face Cornell on Friday and then take on Columbia the following day. Tipoff Friday is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.