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Kansas Holds Off Yale, 81-75

Jessica Steffen. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Jessica Steffen. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

LAWRENCE, Kan. – A Kansas team that had blown out its first two opponents by a combined total of 54 points got all it could handle from the Yale women's basketball team Sunday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse. The Bulldogs led by as many as six points midway through the third quarter, and were within two points with a minute to play before KU closed out an 81-75 win. Senior forward Jen Berkowitz led all players with 19 points and 16 rebounds, while senior guard Tamara Simpson had a team-best five assists.

Kansas (3-0, 0-0 Big 12) had won its first two games by an average of 27 points, beating Campbell 66-48 and Texas Southern 72-37. The Jayhawks also enjoy one of the best home-court advantages in the nation -- they entered Sunday 418-186 (.692) all-time at Allen Fieldhouse. But the first signs of the way this game would go came in the first quarter, when the Jayhawks turned the ball over six times -- they would wind up with 28 for the game. Yale's defensive pressure clearly played a role in that; the Bulldogs finished with 17 steals, led by five from sophomore guard Roxy Barahman.

"That's something we have focused on, pressuring up the floor for 40 minutes," said Allison Guth, Yale's Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Basketball. "We felt it was going to be a good idea to take about eight or nine seconds off the clock."

Senior guard Mary Ann Santucci ended the first quarter with a three-pointer that drew the Bulldogs within two at 19-17. That momentum carried over into the second quarter, when the Bulldogs built a lead of their own. After Berkowitz went up-and-under for a layup two minutes in, the Bulldogs led by six.

KU rallied to re-take the lead within the next minute, and the game then became a back-and-forth affair. Neither team led by more than two until the final minute of the half. The Bulldogs ended an 0-for-5 spell in dramatic fashion, as first-year guard Tori Andrew drained a long three-pointer with 42 seconds left in the second quarter to put the Bulldogs up by five.

The waning moments of the second quarter also saw sophomore guard Jessica Steffen, playing in front of a large contingent of family and friends in her home state, make her season debut. After a jumper by KU center Chelsea Lott, Yale went into halftime up 41-38.

The Bulldogs built that lead up to as many as six points in the third quarter, but Kansas soon closed the gap and then took the lead on a layup by guard Christalah Lyons at the 3:27 mark. A three-pointer by guard Kylee Kopatich with 26 seconds left gave the Jayhawks a 57-54 lead heading into the final quarter.

The Bulldogs caught a tough break less than a minute into the fourth when Andrew went down with an injury, departing the game with nine points. Simpson helped settle things down on the next possession, burying a three to pull Yale within two at 59-57.

Kansas answered with an 11-4 run, though, before Berkowitz hit a free throw and then hit a layup off an assist by Santucci to bring the Bulldogs back within four. A steal by Santucci then helped set up a Simpson for a pair of free throws that got Yale back within two, 68-66, with 3:41 remaining.

Barahman ended a 5-0 Kansas run with a three-pointer, and a steal by Simpson then set up Santucci for a layup to pull Yale within two again, this time at 73-71 with 1:59 left. But a missed layup with just over a minute remaining denied Yale's last good chance to tie up the game. Down at the other end of the court Kopatich drilled a three-pointer, and after a Berkowitz free throw Kopatich answered with a pair of her own to put KU up by six with :18 left. The Jayhawks closed out the win from there.

Barahman finished with 18 points, joining Berkowitz (19) and Simpson (12) in double digits. Sophomore forward Megan Gorman chipped in six rebounds.

Yale (2-1, 0-0 Ivy League), in the midst of its longest road trip of the year, now heads to the Lone Star State and takes on Texas Christian University Tuesday night.

Report by Sam Rubin '95 (, Yale Sports Publicity