Returning to New Haven following two nail-biting finishes at Harvard and Dartmouth this past weekend, the Yale women’s basketball team now finds itself back in the win column for the first time in over a month.
Entering the weekend losers of eight straight games, the Bulldogs (12–17, 3–9 Ivy) were, for the second time this season, denied a victory in dramatic fashion at the hands of Harvard (14–11, 9–3), this time falling 65–63 in a back-and-forth contest. Facing Dartmouth (12–16, 7–5) on Saturday, Yale took its first lead at the start of the second quarter and never gave it up, withstanding a furious fourth-quarter comeback to edge the Big Green 65-–62 in Hanover, New Hampshire. Forward Nyasha Sarju ’16 led the team in scoring during both games, including a career-high 30 points and first career double-double against Dartmouth.
“Both games I think we came out a little slow, but the best thing about both games was we competed for 40 minutes and we did a lot of the things needed to win,” Sarju said. “I think we did a much better job communicating [this weekend], which is an area we have struggled with a lot this season.”
Yale’s weekend began with a slow start against Harvard, which led 27–17 at the end of the first quarter and maintained that advantage for most of the game. The Elis shot just 35 percent from the field in the first half before improving that mark to nearly 50 percent in the final 20 minutes. Fueled by its bench, which contributed 17 of the Bulldogs’ 36 second-half points, Yale took its first lead of the game in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, and the lead changed again five times during that final period.
The last two of Sarju’s team-high 20 points tied the game at 63 apiece with 34 seconds to go. Harvard senior forward AnnMarie Healy sent the Bulldogs away empty-handed, collecting her own offensive rebound with one second to go and sinking the game-winning jump shot as time expired.
“Against Harvard this time, we were the ones coming back from a deficit but we weren’t able to pull it out,” captain and guard Whitney Wyckoff ’16 said. “We rebounded really well and got some really key stops at the end, but in the scramble during the last play we came up short.”
Guard Lena Munzer ’17 joined Sarju as the only two Bulldogs in double figures on the night, contributing 10 points off the bench to go along with four rebounds and four assists. Forwards Katie Werner ’17 and Jen Berkowitz ’18 each contributed six rebounds and combined for 14 points.
Saturday’s contest at Dartmouth followed a similar storyline to the teams’ first matchup in New Haven earlier this month. Just as they did at home, the Bulldogs rode a hot-shooting second quarter to a double-digit first half lead before Dartmouth roared back, outscoring Yale 29–17 in the final frame. The comeback was championed by an immaculate scoring performance from guard Kate Letkewicz, whose 18 points on 6–6 shooting in the quarter represented the second time this season that a Dartmouth player has singlehandedly outscored the Yale team in a fourth quarter.
But Sarju delivered for the Bulldogs at the end of the game, with eight of her team-high 30 points coming in the fourth quarter. The senior registered a perfect 7–7 performance from the free-throw line on the night, her final trip to the charity stripe coming with five seconds to go to put the Bulldogs up by three for good. With a career-high 12 rebounds added to her statline, Sarju’s performance was undoubtedly one of the best of her career.
“My teammates did a great job of getting the ball to me inside, and I was just poised and patient with my moves trying to get high percentage shots around the rim,” Sarju said. “I just credit my teammates for getting me the ball time and time again. My scoring was a team effort.”
Meg McIntyre ’17 assisted Sarju three times and led the Bulldogs with four of the team’s 13 assists.
Yale dominated Dartmouth 44–25 on the boards for the game, led by Sarju and complimented by 20 rebounds from bench players.
“The bench has been huge all year for us,” guard Mary Ann Santucci ’18 said. “We decided in the beginning of the year that our bench was going to be the best, most energetic bench in the league. Both games were complete team efforts.”
Yale will finish up its season this coming weekend at home as its takes on Cornell and Columbia. Yale’s matchup with the Big Red will begin Friday at 7 p.m., while the contest against the Lions, falling on Yale’s Senior Night, will tip off Saturday at 7 p.m.
Lisa Qian contributed reporting.