Yale women’s basketball head coach Amy Backus said after last Saturday’s 75-72 defeat to Brown she would take a sloppy win over a hard-fought loss. But last night at John J. Lee Amphitheater, she had a hard time swallowing her words after the Bulldogs squeaked out a 73-62 win to a scrappy Morgan State squad.

“We were lethargic tonight … but a win’s a win and we needed one right now,” Backus said.

The victory was Yale’s first since a Jan. 7 83-67 blowout against Lafayette, but the Elis (3-11, 0-1 Ivy) looked like they were playing a different frontcourt in the two games. Against the Leopards, center Erica Davis ’07 broke Yale’s single-game scoring record with 36 points. But last night, the Bulldogs struggled to finish inside despite getting open looks from point-blank range all game.

“We did a good job getting entry passes,” Davis said. “We missed a lot of key shots, but that’s something that comes most of the time.”

Midway through the second half, forward Christina Phillips ’04 saw action at the center position and responded well, finishing with 13 points. On one of her better finishes of the evening, Phillips converted a left-handed reverse layup off a nifty pass from Tory Mauseth ’05. The bucket gave Yale a 50-40 lead, and seemingly, the momentum.

But the Bears clawed away at Yale’s advantage, eventually cutting it to one point with 5:21 to play.

“We have to play with so much more intensity,” guard Julie Cohen ’04 said. “We were flat [and] we’ve got to come ready to play.”

Eventually, the Elis stopped giving up offensive rebounds and moved the ball effectively to overcome Morgan State’s full-court press.

“We never let them get a lead [in the second half], we hit our free throws down the stretch, and we rebounded better down the stretch,” Backus said.

Perhaps most encouraging, the Bulldogs hit almost all their free throws in the final minute and shot 82.6 percent from the foul line overall.

Cohen, who played point guard almost the entire second half while starter Brynn Gingras ’04 sat out with stomach pains, was six-of-six from the charity stripe and finished with a team-high 14 points.

Backus said Gingras would be ready to play tomorrow night.

Yale also continued its hot streak from 3-point range, dropping six-of-nine attempts from downtown. Mauseth, who entered the game ranked seventh in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage at 49.2 percent, connected on two-of-three trifectas, including one from two feet beyond the top of the key.

But improved inside play will be crucial for the Bulldogs during their grudge match against Brown (7-6, 1-0) tomorrow at the Pizzitola Center. Unlike last night’s visiting Bears from Baltimore, the Bears from Providence have two agile and aggressive frontcourt players. The Brown duo of Nyeema Mitchell and Holly Robertson combined for 34 points in Brown’s victory in New Haven last Saturday.

“We’re working on our post defense because we can’t let Nyeema Mitchell get 22 points against us again,” Backus said. “We’re relying on our two big kids — Erica [Davis] and Julie [Mantilla ’07]. As freshmen, they’ve got to learn quickly what it’s like to guard players like Nyeema Mitchell and Holly Robertson. Hopefully they took something away from last weekend’s game.”

Though the Bulldogs’ consistency has not improved since their first meeting against Brown, they did have a much better start. While Brown took an early double-digit lead in the Ivy opener, the Elis ran out to a 8-2 advantage in the first three minutes against Morgan State.

“We’re ready to take it to [Brown] from the beginning,” Davis said.

Backus would certainly like to see her team take and maintain an early lead Saturday night — a third close game to a Bears team in one week may leave her with no nails left to bite.

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