After losing three of its last four games, the Yale women’s basketball team entered this past weekend’s contests in need of a win. Though the team fell to nationally-ranked Princeton, an all-important win against Penn kept the Elis’ postseason dreams alive.
When the Bulldogs (17–8, 7–5 Ivy) traveled to the Palestra on Friday, the stakes were high. A win against Penn (18–7, 8–4) would give the Blue and White a good opportunity to earn one of four spots in Ivy Madness; a loss, however, would greatly complicate the team’s postseason aspirations. Powered by a suffocating defense and a game-high 29 points from guard Roxy Barahman ’20, Yale scored a decisive 71–54 win against the Quakers team.
“The win showed us just how good we can be when we fully commit to the defensive game plan and really play together on offense,” guard Ellen Margaret Andrews ’21 said. “It was a real confidence boost, but we still have more to earn and more to play for. While the Penn win was a key step in the right direction, we still have two more must-win games ahead.”
The win knotted Yale and Penn in the Ivy standings, but only for a short time. The Bulldogs’ loss to No. 23 Princeton (24–1, 12–0) reshuffled the conference with Yale finishing the weekend in sole possession of fourth place. Fifth-place Harvard also lost to Cornell, giving the Elis a two-game cushion heading into the final week of regular season play. One win next weekend and the Bulldogs will be packing their bags for Ivy Madness.
Walking into the Palestra, the Blue and White was aware of the formidable challenge ahead. Yale had not won in Philly since the 2012–13 season, and it had lost all but one of the previous 13 contests. Penn, who was crowned co-champions with Princeton last year, has relied heavily on guard Kayla Padilla for offensive production this season. Padilla entered the weekend as the Ancient Eight’s leading scorer with 18.3 points per game. Despite Penn’s talent and its historic winning culture, the Bulldogs were unphased.
The key to the Elis’ victory against the Quakers was defense. Yale held its opponent to just 23 points in the first half, and it netted 20 points off of 13 Penn turnovers. Although Andrews tallied nine points on the offensive side, her most important contribution of the night was her defense against Penn’s star Padilla. Andrews held the first year to just one made field goal the entire night, and she was held scoreless for the entirety of the second half. The Yale junior’s lockdown defense deprived the Quakers of their primary source of offense and was an integral part of the Elis’ victory.
Yale also received healthy contributions from captain Megan Gorman ’20, who grabbed 13 boards and forward Camilla Emsbo ’22, who netted 10 points. But it was Barahman who stole the show on the offensive end.
In a dominant third quarter, Barahman scored 14 of the Elis 27 points as the visiting team extended its lead to 17. The Quakers had no answer for the Yale guard — Barahman scored both in the paint and from beyond the arc en route to a 29 point game, just four shy of her career high.
“We were really focused on staying aggressive after halftime, so I was really determined to keep an attack mentality on offense,” Barahman said.
With a crucial 71–54 win in their back pocket, the Elis boarded the bus to head to Princeton, where they faced last week’s USBWA National Player of the Week Bella Alarie and the nationally-ranked Princeton Tigers.
When the Bulldogs arrived at Jadwin, the Tigers had already secured the regular-season Ivy League title and No. 1 seed in the tournament. The hosts were celebrating senior Saturday, including reigning Ivy League Player of the Year and predicted top 12 WNBA draft pick Alarie. The Tigers needed only one more win to finish their regular season unbeaten at home, add to a 19-game winning streak and cut down the nets at Jadwin.
The Bulldogs did not let the Tigers ease into the celebrations, however, as they delivered a 10–1 run in the first. Princeton came back, tying the game 14–14 going into the second quarter. The Elis faltered, making only one of 15 shots in the second. Princeton ran away with a 12-point lead and after another 9–2 run by the Tigers, the Bulldogs were never able to get the deficit back down to single digits. In the end, the Elis were unable to get past the top defense in the country, but they managed to hold Princeton to its second-lowest point total of the last eight games.
The Bulldogs now move into a crucial final weekend of home games against Dartmouth and Harvard. If the Elis come out of next weekend in the top four, they will play in the Ancient Eight tournament starting on March 13th in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“We know the importance of these two games, especially because we know how they might affect our seed in the Ivy League tournament,” guard Tori Andrew ’21 said. “These games are a must win, so our mentality is simply to show up and take care of business and protect our home court on Senior Night. It is a special weekend for us to honor our seniors — Megan, TJ and Roxy. [I] hope that we have a great home crowd presence to give them the send-off they deserve and bring home the wins.”
The final weekend of the season will be played at the John J. Lee Amphitheater. The Bulldogs will take on Dartmouth and Harvard on Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 4 p.m., respectively.
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