In the penultimate weekend of regular season action, the Yale women’s basketball team fell to Cornell on Friday night 66–56, but kept its postseason hopes alive with a 67–54 win at Columbia on Saturday. It was the Bulldogs’ final road trip of the season.
The Bulldogs (16–11, 6–6 Ivy) entered the weekend in a fourth-place tie with Dartmouth (12–13, 5–7) in the Ancient Eight standings. With the win over Columbia (8–17, 4–8), Yale still has a chance at playing in Ivy Madness and remains in control of its own destiny to get there. With a loss to Princeton, Harvard remains just one game ahead of Yale in third. Now trailing the Elis by one game, Dartmouth fell to the league’s top two teams — Penn and Princeton — to come out of a challenging weekend winless.
“After the [Cornell] loss we knew that we had to get the job done against Columbia, but something we have been emphasizing in practice is remaining focused on what we can control: how we perform,” forward Camilla Emsbo ’22 said. “We can’t change how other teams play, we can’t control the refs or the standings, so we are working hard to stay consistent with the way we prepare. We are going to have to work hard to make it into the tournament, and it is definitely not a given, but our team believes in each other.” .
After a hard-fought, ugly loss to the sixth-place Big Red (11–12, 5–7) on Friday, in which the Bulldogs gave up the ball 19 times and sent Cornell to the line 34 times for 27 points, the Elis’ path to Ivy Madness looked increasingly difficult. In a back-and-forth first half, both teams came into the game desperate to stay in the race for the last two spots in the tournament. Yale held a three-point lead going into the second half after shooting nearly 52 percent from the field throughout the first two quarters.
At the 5:51 mark of the second quarter, point guard Roxy Barahman ’20 became the 22nd player in Yale women’s basketball history to score 1,000 career points. Coming off a screen from guard Megan Gorman ’20, Barahman nailed the fadeaway jumper for two of her 18 points to notch the milestone.
“I knew I was like eight away, so I was pretty excited [going into the weekend],” Barahman said. “I didn’t anticipate being the Ivy League’s leading scorer, but I know it’s a result of all the hard work I put in with my trainer over the summer. [The team and coaching staff] have trusted me a lot with the ball this year, which makes it really easy to have confidence knowing they want it in your hands.”
The floor general has led the Ivy League in scoring for the entire season, currently averaging 18.8 points per game. Barahman ranks 12th in the conference in rebounding, sixth in assists and third in steals and also boasts the eighth-best field goal percentage in the conference. She had an efficient night against Cornell, going 7–12 from the field.
But in the third period, the momentum swung dramatically in favor of the Big Red. The home team came out of the gates in the second half with a 9-0 run and went on to outscore the visitors 23-8 in the quarter. Forward Laura Bagwell-Katalinich led the way for Cornell with a career-high 26 points and tallied 13 rebounds and five assists. No other player scored in double-digits for the Big Red, and Cornell shot just 30 percent from the field as a team. The Elis allowed Bagwell-Katalinich to shoot from the charity stripe 12 times, where she converted 10 of those free throws. The Big Red capitalized on the Bulldogs’ careless passing and picked the Elis’ pockets 11 times for a 22-14 advantage in points off turnovers.
“Offensively we were all just playing very tight and everybody was a little unsure of themselves,” Emsbo said. “Overthinking and playing scared tends to manifest itself in more concrete ways on the stat sheet. So while we did have a lot of fundamental deficiencies, I think a lot of that came from where we were mentally.”
A big three-pointer from guard Tori Andrew ’21 with 32 seconds to play pulled the Bulldogs within five, but Yale sent the Big Red to the line and gave up possession on a sloppy inbounds play to put Cornell up eight with 20 seconds left. Cornell has swept Yale in each of the last three seasons.
Against Columbia the next night, the Bulldogs finally found their inside presence to end their four-game losing streak. After losing to Cornell on the glass 41–34 and mustering only 20 points in the paint, forwards Emsbo, Alex Cade ’21 and Alexandra Maund ’19 fueled a come-from-behind win, combining for 41 points and 22 rebounds. The Bulldogs won the battle in the paint 46–20 and out-rebounded the Lions 41–37.
Despite putting up just 21 points in the last four games for the Elis, Emsbo poured in a game-high 17 points and eight boards against Columbia. Cade had struggled similarly in the last few games, scoring just four points in the losses to Harvard and Cornell. But against Columbia, Cade went 4–7 for ten points and eight rebounds.
“There’s definitely a clear correlation between our losses and decreased post production,” Emsbo said. “We haven’t been finishing inside with the same strength and confidence that we are capable of. I also think that as a team we need to become more comfortable attacking a zone and trusting the inside presence even when the defense is in a different set. The fact that we turned it around against Columbia is huge and reminded the bigs what we’re capable of.”
The bench showed up strong for the Elis on Saturday, contributing 25 points, with forward Maund leading the way with 14. A week after breaking out for a career-high 17 points against Dartmouth, rookie guard Robin Gallagher ’22 played heavy minutes for the Elis all weekend, pitching in 13 points on Friday and a three-pointer against Columbia.
Together, Maund, Emsbo and Cade led a decisive 20–2 run in the second half after the Bulldogs fell behind by as many as 11 points in the second quarter. A three-point play by Barahman with 3:20 left in the third sparked an 11–0 run to close a monster 25-point third quarter for the Bulldogs. Columbia got on the board first to open the final period, but Emsbo went on a 7–0 run of her own to make sure the Lions never got close to winning again. Yale led by as many as 15 in the fourth.
The Bulldogs host Penn and Princeton next weekend to decide their postseason fate.
Julianna Lai | firstname.lastname@example.org