The women’s basketball team pulled away from UMass-Lowell in the second half last night to defeat the River Hawks 90–77 in its home opener.
For the first time in school history, Yale (2–0, 0–0 Ivy) faced UMass-Lowell (0–2, 0–0 America East), which is in its first year as a Division I basketball program.
From the opening tip, the Bulldogs showed they were the better team, scoring on their first possession as the River Hawks missed a number of layups in the first ten minutes. But the Bulldogs were unable to capitalize on the River Hawks’ mistakes, turning the ball over 12 times in the first half to allow UMass-Lowell to keep the game close.
“[The game] was really sloppy and that is something we need to improve on,“ captain and guard Janna Graf ’14 said. “We were making a lot of turnovers and playing more into their game and their speed. If we start cleaning that up and getting better every game, I think we have a lot to improve on still.”
Still, the Elis took a 23–15 lead with 10:16 to go in the first half. But in addition to their turnover woes, the Elis’ foul trouble gave UMass-Lowell plenty of chances from the charity stripe. Yale went over the foul limit with 10:01 to go in the half, and free throws helped the River Hawks chip into Yale’s lead.
With 4:33 left in the half, UMass-Lowell pulled to within one, 35–34, on a three point shot from guard Rachel McCarron. The two teams continued to trade baskets until the final minute.
Yale’s stingy defense pressured UMass-Lowell into a shot clock violation with 33 seconds remaining, and guard Sarah Halejan ’15 scored from long range with the half winding down to extend the Bulldogs’ lead to 48–42 going into the locker room.
Neither team was able to take control of the game as the second half started, as each made a basket in the early going. With 17:45 remaining, the River Hawks pulled to within four on a layup from guard Jasmine McRoy.
But this would be the closest UMass-Lowell got to the Elis the rest of the game. The Bulldogs started to pull away from the River Hawks by getting open looks and shots from Halejan and guard Meghan McIntyre ’17. With a little over 11 minutes remaining, the Elis were up 68–55.
Halejan led the way for the Bulldogs down the stretch, making key baskets and hitting 5–6 free throws. Graf contributed in the closing minutes with daggers from beyond the three-point arc, putting the River Hawks away for good. With 3:34 left, the game was out of reach with Yale leading UMass-Lowell 88–67.
“I thought the only thing we did better in the second half than we did in the first half was we shot the ball better,“ head coach Chris Gobrecht said after the game. “We were getting some looks, we buried some shots, and Janna stepped up and made a lot of threes… We have to get better. We’re not thrilled with the game. I thought Sarah Halejan played really well and took some steps toward being the player she is capable of being today.”
UMass-Lowell went on a small run with 2:19 remaining to bring the final score to 90–77 in favor of Yale.
The Bulldogs’ depth was on display again, with five players finishing in double figures. Halejan led all scorers with 20 points, followed by 14 from forward Meredith Boardman ’16, who also added 10 rebounds to record a double-double. Center Emmy Allen ’16 and McIntyre led the bench, which scored 43 points.
Overall, the team shot 40.3 percent from the field compared to 35.1 percent from UMass-Lowell and outrebounded its opponent 57–48. There were also an inordinate number of turnovers committed by both teams. Yale gave the ball away 21 times throughout the game — a statistic that multiple players said they hope to reduce in future games.
“We realized all the mistakes we were making in the first half,” forward Alexandra Osborn-Jones ’14 said. “I think we realized that we really were the better team and we shouldn’t let them get away with little things that we should have just stopped them on. We got more stops, we took more pride in our defense, and I think that was really the key to all of it.”
The Bulldogs will face Sacred Heart at home on Saturday before beginning a four-game road trip the following week.