The Air Force Classic was a tale of two teams for women’s basketball.
The Elis (2-5) had almost the same point margin in each of their two games, but the two ended with very different results. The Bulldogs finished third in the Air Force Classic in Colorado Springs, Colo. this past weekend, devastating the Texas-Pan American Broncos (3-6), 62-49, after falling to Air Force (4-5), 67-55, in the tournament’s opening match.
Against the Broncos on Saturday, the Elis held the lead for all but 14 seconds at the beginning of the game. They exhibited a strong defense, holding UTPA to under 50 points, a feat they had not accomplished since February 2005.
“As far as this weekend goes, the second game was positive for us,” guard Ashley Easley ’09 said. “We played better defense and worked together very well. It was a nice way to finish the weekend.”
The Elis forced 22 Bronco turnovers and racked up 25 defensive rebounds, led by captain and forward Chinenye Okafor ’07, who snagged five defensive boards. Okafor recorded her second double-double of the season, with 12 points and 11 rebounds. She was the Bulldogs’ top scorer, along with reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Week guard Melissa Colborne ’10. Centers Sara McCollum ’08 and Erica Davis ’07 both had double-digit total point tallies (11), despite the fact that Davis did not play in the second half because of injury.
UTPA’s top scorer, freshman forward Aleeya Grigsby, racked up 10 points and senior forward Mahogany Daniel posted a team-high 10 boards.
The Elis also held a marked edge over the Broncos at the charity stripe. The Bulldogs made 66.7 percent of their free throws, while UTPA only had 40 percent accuracy from the line.
Yale head coach Chris Gobrecht said the Elis’ high level of play was because of their mental preparedness for the game.
“We came out with a renewed commitment to our effort and teamwork,” she said. “Everyone worked together.”
However, the tournament did not begin as well as it ended for the Bulldogs, who were defeated by the Falcons by 12 points. The Elis struggled against Air Force, reaching a season low for total points with 55.
The Falcons had four players in double-digit points and their leader, junior forward Pamela Findlay, had 20 to go with 10 total boards. Air Force bested the Bulldogs in field goal percentage as well: Yale shot 38.2 percent from the floor, and the Falcons sunk 47.1 percent of their shots.
However, the Elis did show signs of promise. Colborne totaled 15 points with Davis close behind her with 12; Okafor once again led the Bulldogs in rebounds with 10.
“We just did not play well in the game against Air Force,” Gobrecht said. “We struggled generating effort, we did not play to our capabilities, and we weren’t happy about it. There is a lot to adjust to when you come into a mountain west environment.”
The trip to Colorado is all part of Gobrecht’s plan to ready the Elis for conference competition. She said the team is taking on a huge challenge by playing so many away games early in the season.
Davis also said the tournaments will be very helpful come Ivy League play.
“Our tournaments really prepare us for the mind-set we have to be in for league games,” she said. “It replicates what we are going to be doing throughout the season and how strong and focused we have to be.”
Even though the Elis faltered early in the weekend, they proved that they have the ability to come back with a new mind-set and to take on a formidable opponent and to win decisively.