The women’s basketball team avenged its loss to Cornell earlier this season on Friday night, then held off Columbia to complete a weekend sweep.
“We were motivated to get back on the winning track this weekend and that helped us to sustain our energy and focus throughout the weekend,” said guard Sarah Halejian ’15. “We shared the ball on offense and our defensive pressure was key towards creating a lot of turnovers.”
After losing to Cornell (13–11, 5–5 Ivy) 65–56 in Ithaca, N.Y. on Feb. 1 Yale (12–12, 6–4) reversed its fortunes, defeating the Big Red 60–52. The Bulldogs started off the game slowly, trailing 10–2 less than three minutes into the game.
Down 15–10 with 8:40 to play in the first half, the Elis started a 15–1 run that would extend into the second half. Yale headed into the locker room up 22–16 after posting its first lead, 18–16, with 2:04 remaining in the first period.
The Bulldogs maintained their momentum heading into the game’s final period and never relinquished the lead. The Elis held their largest advantage less than five minutes into the second half, leading 31–19. Cornell, however, mustered a run that brought the Big Red to within three points, 40–37, with 6:05 remaining.
Yale regained control of the game minutes later, pushing the lead to double digits again with under four minutes to play, leading 51–41. Cornell was never able to get closer than eight points, which was the final margin as the Elis won 60–52.
“[Cornell] wanted it badly, and thankfully so did we,” said head coach Chris Gobrecht. “We wanted it every bit as much as they did, so that’s why we won the game. It was a battle of whoever wanted it.”
Three players scored in double-digit figures for the Bulldogs, led by Halejian and guard Nyasha Sarju ’16, who scored 18 points apiece. Center Emmy Allen ’16 added 14 points off the bench to go along with three blocks.
One of the key differences in the game was free-throw shooting, where Yale went 16–22 while Cornell only managed 9–20 from the line. The Bulldogs also shot 36.2 percent from the field compared to the Big Red’s 33.9 percent and outrebounded Cornell 47–40.
Columbia (6–18, 3–7), shooting 51.0 percent from the field, presented a tough challenge for the Elis on Saturday night.
“A team like Columbia has just been getting better and better,” Gobrecht said. “They played Penn to a seven point game last weekend, they’ve won two in a row, and they were shooting the lights out. … It can be a dangerous time of year.”
In the end, Yale was victorious, defeating the Lions 73–68. In a game that featured five ties and eight lead changes, neither team would lead by more than six points throughout the game.
Both teams traded baskets early on, with neither Columbia nor Yale able to claim a decisive advantage. Going into halftime, three points separated the two teams, with the Bulldogs on top 37–34. The game remained tight throughout the second half, and with 4:23 to play, the Elis held a slight two-point advantage.
Tough defense from both sides kept the score locked at 67–65 for the next two minutes before Halejian nailed a 3-pointer to give Yale a 70–65 lead. Although free throws from Columbia closed the gap to 70–68 with 32 seconds to play, Yale would hold on for a 73–68 win thanks to made free throws from Halejian and guard Whitney Wyckoff ’16.
Although the Lions posted higher percentages than the Bulldogs from the field and free-throw line, the Elis were able to force Columbia into 17 turnovers while committing only eight. Yale was also outrebounded 38–36, but the Bulldogs had a strong effort on the offensive boards, which translated into 11 second-chance points compared to only two from Columbia.
Halejian led all scorers with 26 points aided by captain and guard Janna Graf ’14, who added 12 points. The Bulldogs’ bench also contributed, outscoring its Lions’ counterpart 24–6.
“I thought Sarah really stepped up big time,” Gobrecht said. “We got some big buckets from a lot of people, and we got some really good hustle plays from [guard Amanda Tyson ’14] and Whitney Wyckoff. I thought Whitney Wyckoff’s defense on 00 [Columbia guard Miwa Tachibana] down the stretch was huge, since she had not missed all night.”
The Elis will be at home for one final weekend, facing the top two teams in the conference, Princeton and Penn, on Friday and Saturday night at 7 p.m.