The Yale women’s basketball team vaulted over 0.500 for the first time this season by defeating Columbia 55–47 and Cornell 60–53. The Bulldogs’ victory against Cornell marked the team’s sixth straight win, making Yale 4–0 in the Ivy League.
“The past two wins were huge for my team and the entire program,” guard Tamara Simpson ’18 said. “It’s the first time we have started the season 4–0 since 1979.”
Yale’s game against Cornell on Sunday, featuring nine lead changes and five ties, was hard-fought by any standard. The Big Red’s 41.7 percent shooting topped the Bulldogs’ 37.0 percent, and the Big Red was more successful from the charity line at 68.8 percent compared to Yale’s 61.5 percent. However, Yale took a 45–44 lead at the 7:04 mark in the second half and refused to surrender the lead for the remainder of the game.
The Bulldogs started the game on a 8–2 run, but the Big Red quickly caught up to tie Yale 8–8 at 14:10. The two teams traded baskets until a layup from sophomore forward Nicholle Aston sent the Big Red on a 11–0 run to lead the game 27–17 at 4:02. Two layups from Simpson in the last two minutes of the first half shortened the Big Red’s lead to 29–24.
The Elis caught up quickly with Cornell, however, and regained the lead 32–31 at the 14:32 mark, largely thanks to two free throws from center Emmy Allen ’16 and a layup and jump shot from Simpson.
The two teams traded baskets, tying at 33–33, then 37–37 with 12:02 remaining. Cornell temporarily led for the next five minutes, but an and-one from guard Katie Werner ’17 helped the Bulldogs regain the lead 45–44 with 7:04 left.
From this point on, the Bulldogs maintained their lead until the end of the game, largely thanks to eight free throws in the last 1:41 of the game. In the end, the score stood at 60–53.
The game against Cornell contrasted to the matchup against Columbia, where the Bulldogs led for nearly the entire game.
The Bulldogs started the game well, using consecutive layups from Werner, Simpson and Allen to take an 8–0 lead. The two teams traded baskets for the first 10 minutes of the game, with Yale leading 17–8 at the 10:53 mark. After a jump shot from senior guard Miwa Tachibana, the Lions went on a 15–5 run to tie the game at 23–23 at 4:53. Neither team scored again until Allen made a layup at 19:30 in the second half.
That basket led the Bulldogs on a 15–5 run to break the tie and lead 38–28 at the 12:24 mark, and seven of those 13 points came from successful free throws by Simpson and guards Nyasha Sarju ’16 and Whitney Wyckoff ’17. A three-point jump shot from Sarju and a layup from Wyckoff kept Yale in the lead despite eight consecutive points from sophomore forward Tori Oliver, the Ivy League’s second-leading scorer.
With 5:33 remaining, the Lions brought the score to 47–46 thanks to a three-pointer from freshman guard Alexa Giuliano. But a layup from Wyckoff and a jump shot from guard Mary Ann Santucci ’18 widened Yale’s lead to 51–47. Wyckoff sunk four more free throws in the last minute of the game to help the Bulldogs clinch a 55–47 victory.
In a game during which both teams scored well below their respective shooting averages, Yale’s pressure defense proved crucial for the Bulldogs’ win. Yale scored five times as many points off turnovers as the Lions did, 20–4, and limited the Lions, who entered Friday on a scoring average of 64.5 points per game, to only 47 points. The Bulldogs also limited Oliver to just 11 points throughout the game.
Additionally, the Bulldogs forced 24 turnovers and kept the Lions to just 38 percent from the field.
“In both games, it was pressure defense that really drove us,” Santucci said.
In addition, Santucci said the team was able to outlast both opponents because every single player on the team contributed in some way to the game.
Yale’s consistency from the charity line also helped make the difference in the remaining minutes of the game against Columbia. The Bulldogs shot 13–16 from the charity line, while Columbia made just 5–11 free throws.
Ultimately, the team’s mentality made the difference in both tight matches, according to Simpson.
“I believe we were so successful because we really played as a team for the entirety of both games,” Simpson said. “Everyone who walked on the floor contributed positively in some way, whether big or small, and we really played with the mindset of winners.”
The Elis will play Dartmouth in Hanover this Friday. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.