With a postseason bid hanging in the balance, the Bulldogs missed an opportunity to solidify their second-place position in the Ivy League on Saturday night.
After Yale (15–9, 7–3 Ivy) beat Dartmouth (4–19, 2–7 Ivy) 66–48 Friday night and Harvard lost to Brown, the Elis had a chance to hand the Crimson its fourth loss and go a long way towards securing their second-straight trip to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament. But Harvard (13–10, 6–3 Ivy) won 71–51, snapping the Bulldogs’ three-game winning streak against the Crimson.
“I know it’s cliché to say, but they wanted it more than we did,” head coach Chris Gobrecht said of the Cantabs. “Harvard played like a team that was pretty upset that it had lost to us three times in a row, and that was evident. They were throwing all the punches and we were just ducking them.”
After the Dartmouth win, Gobrecht told the News she was worried by the team’s sloppy play in the second half and feared it would carry over into the Harvard game. Sure enough, the Crimson jumped out to an 11–2 lead in the first six minutes of the game the following night, as the Elis missed nine of their first 10 shots.
Harvard’s lead grew to 24–10 with eight minutes remaining in the half, but Yale battled back. Janna Graf ’14, who led Yale in scoring with 15 points for the game, scored six of the Elis’ 12 points to close out the half, and the Bulldogs held the Crimson without a field goal for over eight minutes. Yale had a chance to tie it up on Hayden Latham’s ’15 three-point attempt with 15 seconds remaining in the half, but the shot fell short, and Harvard’s Emma Golen made a jump shot with one second on the clock to give the Crimson a five-point lead at the break.
The Elis cut the lead to four on guard Megan Vasquez’s ’13 three-pointer one minute into the second half, but that was as close the Elis got for the rest of the game. The Crimson slowly started taking over and broke the game open with about seven minutes remaining. Vasquez fouled Harvard forward Victoria Lippert, who went to the line for two free throw attempts, and a technical foul called on West gave Harvard two more shots from the charity stripe. Lippert converted all four chances to increase the Crimson lead to 16, and the Elis never could recover.
While they did not say poor referee calls could account for the outcome of the match, both Gobrecth and West said the officiating helped rank up the score in Harvard’s favor. Harvard shot 25 free throws and made 17 of them, while Yale was awarded only 10.
“The officiating was a really big factor in the game,” West said. “The officials messed with our heads and took us out of our game. It seemed like no matter what we did on defense we got called for fouls.”
Despite the unfocused play Gobrecht said categorized the first game of the weekend, the Bulldogs came out on top against Dartmouth.
The Big Green came in with only one Ivy League win under its belt, and the Bulldogs dominated the opening half. Yale’s defense was stifling and held Dartmouth to only 16 points while forcing 16 turnovers. With the Bulldogs’ offense clicking as well, the team assisted 11 of its 14 baskets in the first half and went into the break up by 22.
“In the first half we were shooting well, and we went with the game plan we set out with,” guard Aarica West ’13 said. “We let up in the second half though, and I think we were just riding the waves of that first-half performance.”
In the second half, the Big Green outscored the Elis 32–28, and while Yale still won by double digits, Gobrecht said she was less than thrilled with the team’s performance.
The weekend leaves rivals Yale and Harvard battling for second after Princeton pulled wins over Cornell and Columbia this weekend and effectively locked up its third consecutive Ivy League title. The Tigers (19–4, 9–0 Ivy) would have to lose three out of their final five games to allow the Bulldogs or the Crimson to steal the title — a monumental collapse for a team that has lost only one conference game in the past three seasons.
A first-place finish in the Ivy League grants the victor an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, but the second-place team still gets a postseason berth in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament. The Bulldogs are currently in second at 7–3, a half-game ahead of Harvard. Yale has four games remaining on its schedule, and the Cantabs have five. Both teams must still face Princeton once more.
Guard Allie Messimer ’13 said the weekend’s loss to Harvard boosted the team’s determination to finish strong in the games remaining this season.
“This loss will be a huge motivation for the team, and hopefully will give us the edge to finish off the next four games.”
The Bulldogs go on the road next week to face Columbia and Cornell before returning home for the final weekend of the season.