The Yale women’s basketball team saw a five-game road stand end in disappointing fashion over the weekend, dropping two tight decisions to Columbia and Cornell.
Although the Bulldogs (11–12, 2–4 Ivy) led for the majority of Friday’s matchup against Columbia (12–9, 1–5), Yale was unable to hold on to a one-point lead with less than three minutes remaining, ultimately losing 77–71. The Elis, now 1–10 this season on the road, were unable to rebound in Saturday’s faceoff with Cornell (13–7, 5–1), falling 74–63 at the final whistle despite impressive offensive efforts by guards Tamara Simpson ’18 and Meg McIntyre ’17.
“We failed to defend on both nights, which is why we lost both,” captain and guard Whitney Wyckoff ’16 said. “We didn’t really have trouble scoring, but we traded baskets with both teams too much and didn’t get stops at critical points in the games.”
Having entered the weekend with a 0.500 record in conference play, the two losses put Yale four games behind first-place Penn with eight games remaining.
Friday’s game pitted the Bulldogs against the Lions, a team which had yet to win a league game. The Eli offense, which has struggled to score more than 50 points since their Jan. 16 game against Brown, scored 35 points in the first half behind 42.3 percent shooting. Guard Nyasha Sarju ’16, fifth in the Ivy League in scoring at 15.1 points per game, led the team at the half with nine points and 10 of the 11 Bulldogs who saw action scored before halftime.
Columbia evened the score by the end of the third quarter, buoyed by 63.6 percent shooting from the field. Although Yale shot just 33 percent in the period, 12 third-quarter points from Simpson kept Yale afloat.
The lead changed three times in the fourth before Columbia’s leading scorer, Camille Zimmerman, knocked down a jump shot to put the Lions ahead for good.
Despite a pair of McIntyre three-pointers in the final two minutes, Yale was not able to withstand a 16–8 run from Columbia to close out the game and victory.
Half of Columbia’s 22 fourth-quarter points came from the foul line, taking advantage of foul trouble for Yale, as compared to an 0–2 effort at the charity stripe in the final period by the Bulldogs.
Although Yale upped its offensive effort — the Bulldogs scored their most points and shot their best percentage since a Jan. 22 win at Brown — behind 19 points from Simpson and 12 from Sarju, the team’s defense precluded an important conference victory.
“We missed our help defense assignments and just did not bring the intensity we needed on the defensive end,” guard Lena Munzer ’17 said. “That can’t happen, especially against a great offensive team like Columbia. They were hungry for a win and they capitalized on our mistakes.”
With only a day between games, Yale headed upstate to Ithaca to face the Big Red. With another high-scoring start to the contest, the Bulldogs found themselves leading after the first 10 minutes of play, but an 18–3 second-quarter run by Cornell put the Elis behind by four points by the end of the first half.
The halftime break did little to interrupt Cornell’s momentum, as the Big Red scored 11 of the first 15 points of the second half to take a 49–38 lead. That 11-point margin persisted into the fourth quarter, despite the efforts of McIntyre, who had already scored 16 points heading into the final frame.
With only 4:53 left to play, foul trouble plagued the Bulldogs yet again as Sarju picked up her third foul of the quarter and fifth of the game. With its leading scorer off the court, the Bulldogs failed to cut the deficit to a single possession from that point forward despite just 9–16 shooting for Cornell in the final five minutes.
McIntyre’s performance stood out in the defeat, as the junior guard recorded a career-high 19 points.
“I think my mentality was just to keep attacking, and to try to create opportunities for other people to score as well,” McIntyre said. “We were down the second half, so we wanted to keep pushing in transition, and keep fighting.”
Simpson, meanwhile, registered her first career double-double in Saturday’s game behind 19 points and 10 rebounds. This was the 14th time that Simpson scored in double figures this season.
Averaging 16.5 turnovers per game this season, the Bulldogs committed just 11 on Saturday, their second-fewest of the season. However, it was only able to force four Cornell giveaways.
“Our defense did improve a little bit from Friday to Saturday, but it still needs a lot of work,” Wyckoff said. “Our main focus was outworking Cornell on Saturday, and we showed glimpses of that, but it wasn’t consistent enough throughout the game to win it.”
This weekend’s results leave the Bulldogs tied with Dartmouth for fifth in the Ivy League standings, with a matchup between the two teams slated for Friday.
On Saturday, the Bulldogs will face rival Harvard for their first Ivy home weekend of the season, intent on improving their performance on the defensive end of the floor after both Columbia and Cornell shot at least 45 percent from the field.
“We never gave up, but we put ourselves in a position that made it very hard down the stretch in both games, where I think we could have done a much better job on the front end in terms of defending their actions,” Sarju said. “We are happy to be back home, and will have a very defensive-minded week of practice to prepare for another tough weekend.”
Friday’s contest against the Big Green will be Yale’s first home game in nearly a month.