Against Brown on Friday night, the Yale women’s basketball team fell inches short of completing a furious comeback for its elusive first Ivy League win of the year.
An uninspired first half of action put the Elis (9–7, 0–3 Ivy) behind by as many as 18 points, as Yale struggling to defend the Bears’ (11–5, 2–1) transition offense and went completely cold from the field. In the second half, guards Lena Munzer ’17 and Mary Ann Santucci ’18 keyed a rally to draw the Elis within as few as two points, but Brown held onto a 76–73 win when a Munzer three-pointer hit off the front of the rim as time expired. After an opening weekend at Penn and Princeton during which one lackluster quarter in each game dimmed the Bulldogs’ chances, Yale once again failed to piece together a complete four quarters of high-quality basketball in its third straight loss.
“I’m obviously proud of their second-half gumption, but really, really disappointed in their lack of inspired play in the first half,” head coach Allison Guth said. “That’s just not how we play. … I think [Brown is] a tremendous team, but in no way did we play for 40 minutes tonight, and that is a staple of our program.”
The Bulldogs never led at the Pizzitola Sports Center and did not score for the first three minutes of action. On the offensive end, the Elis misfired on all six of their first-quarter three-point attempts, and the Bears each time captured the rebound and quickly pushed the ball into the frontcourt. Yale could not find an answer to Brown’s precise, fluid ball movement and up-tempo attack, and help defense was nowhere to be found in the paint.
Brown seemed to corral every loose ball in the first half, and its superior energy powered a 10–0 run in the first period to establish a 21–6 lead. The Bears continued to cruise in the second quarter, with freshman standout Justine Gaziano notching nine of her 17 points in the frame as Yale committed six turnovers. Forward Jen Berkowitz ’18 was responsible for three of these miscues and eight overall, although she still managed to drop 18 points from the low post.
With Brown leading 46–31 after halftime, play resumed with a scoring barrage that saw both sides total 27 combined points in just the first five minutes of the third quarter. Yale outpaced Brown at an 18–9 clip during this stint to draw within six.
“I think we came out with a fire in the second half,” forward Bronwyn Davies ’20 said. “[We were] just feeling the losses from last weekend, just remembering how those stung and wanting to prove to the rest of the Ivy League that we’re going to be a competitor this year.”
The Bulldogs relied on Berkowitz, who tallied nine points the third frame, to erase their first-half deficit. However, the Bears pushed back and went on a 7–0 run. Sparked by two threes from their leading scorer on the night, guard Shayna Mehta, Brown rebuilt its lead to 11 at the end of the period.
The Elis switched to a 2–3 zone in the third quarter that created eight Brown turnovers. Carrying this zone into the final 10 minutes, Yale put together its best quarter when it counted the most.
“In the first half we were struggling guarding their dribble-drive offense,” captain and forward Elizabeth Haley ’17 said. “So in the second half when we went to the zone we were able to … force them to take some contested three-point shots. We had some really good rotations and everyone who was in was getting a lot of tips; we were able to gain momentum by slowing them down on their offense.”
The Bulldogs stormed back and stymied the potent Brown offense, which went scoreless for nearly six minutes, while the visitors went on a 13–0 run. Four Elis scored at least three points in the final frame to contribute to the comeback. The Bears, on the other hand, had only one such player.
After the Elis clawed all the way back to 76–73, guard Tamara Simpson ’18 poked the ball away for the most important of her seven steals with just four seconds remaining in the game. Simpson sent an outlet pass ahead to Munzer, who cued up a long-range shot as the Brown defense sprinted back. But the shot lacked the distance, and Yale’s first-half struggles proved to be too much to overcome.
“[Our focus for next week in practice is] playing for 40 minutes, finding a way to do that,” Guth said. “We didn’t play a third quarter versus Penn, we didn’t play a fourth quarter versus Princeton and we didn’t play the first and second quarters versus Brown, and that’s not how you’re going to win a ballgame against really good competition.”
Coming into its matchup with Yale, Brown was the top offensive team in the Ancient Eight by a wide margin, averaging five more points per game in conference play than the next closest team. Friday’s contest was no different, as the Bears shared the ball all night for a high assisted field-goal percentage of 67 percent.
Yale will have one week to formulate a game plan to stop or match Brown’s high-octane offense before the two sides face off again on Friday night, this time at the John J. Lee Amphitheater.