The John J. Lee Amphitheater was rocking this weekend — both on the court and in the stands. Just ask the Yale fan with his painted blue chest who enthusiastically shadowboxed to the Yale band’s version of the “Rocky” theme music.

In its most challenging Ivy weekend yet, Yale (10-9, 3-3 Ivy) split its contests against Dartmouth (5-12, 1-3) and Harvard (13-5, 4-1). The Bulldogs fell to the Crimson 61-57 Saturday after defeating the Big Green, 76-70, Friday.

Against the powerful Crimson team, the Elis played an intense and fast-paced first half, going up by as many as 13 points. Behind 50 percent field-goal shooting and 10 steals, including five from Brynn Gingras ’04 alone, the Bulldogs took a 9-point lead into halftime.

“I thought the first half was a classic case of assist Harvard, score Yale,” Harvard head coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said of her team’s 15 first-half turnovers.

Led by sophomore Hana Peltjo, who scored a game-high 16 points, the Crimson came storming back in the second half, retaking the lead with 5:45 to play. Harvard significantly improved its play from the first half, going from 38.5 to 55.2 percent shooting and only committing four turnovers in the second half.

“They picked up their defensive intensity,” head coach Amy Backus said. “The shots they were missing in the first half, they were making [in the second].”

Ultimately, Harvard’s Jennifer Monti won the game at the foul line. Monti, a 76.5 percent shooter from the charity stripe, went 4-6 from the free-throw line in the last 43 seconds of the game.

“I was surprised she missed one,” Delaney-Smith said. “She absolutely adores pressure.”

Noticeably absent from the game was Harvard’s freshman phenom, Reka Cserny. Cserny, who averages 15.9 points per game, missed both of the Crimson’s games this weekend with a sprained ankle.

Without Cserny, the Bulldogs were better able to contain Peltjo, who came into the game averaging a league-leading 20.9 points per game. Nevertheless, Monti and Kate Ides filled the gap left by Cserny with 11 and 12 points respectively.

This weekend marked the first time since Jan. 11-12 that the Bulldogs have played back-to-back games. Despite the loss, Yale was pleased with its overall performance against the league powerhouse and looked ahead to the March 1 rematch in Cambridge.

“We know that we can come back the next day [and play well,]” Tory Mauseth ’05 said. “We did a good job not letting ourselves get intimidated. We have to play with that energy all the way through, and we have to play smart.”

Mauseth, who came into the weekend averaging 17.4 minutes per game, stepped up for the Elis against both Harvard and Dartmouth. With Morgan Richards ’05 on the bench with a fractured foot, Mauseth, normally an off guard, has seen minutes relieving Gingras at point guard.

“She’s really maturing and giving us quality minutes and production,” Backus said.

The freshman out of Sammamish, Wash., finished the Harvard game with 7 points in 26 minutes of playing time. Helene Schutrumpf ’03 led all Bulldogs with 13 points, and Christina Phillips ’04 added 12 points.

Against Dartmouth, Schutrumpf and Mauseth were two of four Elis to score in double digits, contributing 13 and 10 points, respectively. Lindsay Page ’05 added 11 points. But the team leader was captain Meg Simpson ’02, who scored 17 points and pulled down 14 rebounds.

“[The players] brought a lot of energy to the game [against Dartmouth],” Backus said. “They executed the game plan and stayed composed under pressure. It’s been a long time since we’ve been ahead at the half and made the right decisions all the way through.”

Indeed, the Elis took a 37-32 lead into halftime. And although Dartmouth’s Katharine Hanks and Kerri Downs finished the game with 25 and 20 points, respectively, Yale was able to stave off the Big Green’s comeback campaign. Dartmouth pulled within 3 points with 9:56 to play, but a 3-pointer by Page quickly halted the Big Green’s momentum.

“Yale played very hard, they had a very balanced attack,” Dartmouth head coach Chris Wielgus said. “We came out in the second half and did not do a good job with our shot selection. We could have reversed the ball, and we took too many quick shots. Defensively, we didn’t contain their penetration.”

The victory marked the first time in Backus’ three years as head coach that the Elis have beaten Dartmouth.

“[The win] felt really good,” Page said. “We played our tempo — running on offense, rebounding on defense, pushing the ball up the court.”

Yale travels to Penn (6-12, 2-3) and Princeton (8-10, 2-3) next weekend. The Bulldogs are 3-5 on the road this season. After their strong play against both Dartmouth and Harvard, the Elis believe they can match up with any team in the Ancient Eight.

“We definitely have a lot of confidence from this weekend,” Phillips said. “We know we’re right there with the top teams in the league.”

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