FORT WORTH, Texas – The Yale women's basketball team got the breakthrough that it has been looking for Tuesday night -- and the Bulldogs got it 1,400 miles from home. In front of a large group of Yale supporters at Texas Christian University's Schollmaier Center, the Bulldogs delivered the type of complete performance needed to beat one of the toughest teams on their schedule, handing TCU an 82-72 loss. Yale shot a blistering 53 percent from the field and outrebounded the Horned Frogs 41-31.
"This is one of my all-time favorite moments at Yale," said Allison Guth, who is in her third season as Yale's Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Basketball and spent a pair of seasons as an assistant for the Bulldogs. "This is one of those games where your team can take a step in a certain direction. They broke through. We've been so close in several of these over the past few years. For them to break through and earn that 'W', you can't describe it. You kind of want to bottle it up."
It was a memorable night for all the Bulldogs, but the senior class truly shined. Forward Jen Berkowitz scored a game-high 24 points, hitting on 10 of her 14 shots, and added seven rebounds. Guard Tamara Simpson totaled 19 points and five assists, while guard Mary Ann Santucci had five points and four rebounds.
Coming on the heels of Berkowitz' 19-point, 16-rebound performance at Kansas on Sunday, her efforts on Tuesday had her coach reaching for superlatives.
"She is unbelievable. She has showed that she's not just one of the best post players in the Ivy League, she's one of the best post players in the country," said Guth.
Berkowitz was also one of the key reasons why Yale held TCU's six-foot-three center, Jordan Moore, to just seven points. Moore came in averaging 21 per game.
"Post defense was crucial," said Guth. "Moore is a tremendous athlete. To hold her to seven points is a testament to our players' coachability and how we prepped our post defense."
TCU (3-1, 0-0 Big 12), which has made 14 postseason appearances in the last 17 years, had beaten its first three opponents by an average of nearly 15 points. But the Horned Frogs would not get comfortable at all against the Bulldogs Tuesday night. They led for a total of just 90 seconds, and never led by more than a point.
The game even began on a high note for Yale, as a pair of Texans made their first career starts for the Bulldogs: first-year forward Ellen Margaret Andrews of Dallas and junior guard Gabby Nelson of Hurst. Nelson gave her large cheering section a thrill by drilling a three-pointer with 7:18 left in the first quarter to cap a 7-0 start. She would hit another one late in the second quarter.
"That's a testament to Gabby," said Guth. "She's a kid who is ready when her name is called. One of the first times in her career we subbed her in, against Fairleigh Dickinson at North Carolina, she hit a three. So it wasn't shocking to see it tonight, but it was rewarding. Life isn't always fair, so it was great to see a kid rewarded for her hard work."
The Horned Frogs eventually closed the gap, but Yale took a 17-15 lead into the second quarter.
The Bulldogs cooled off slightly in the second, shooting 40 percent after shooting 47 percent in the first, but still managed to extend their lead by a point. After TCU missed a three at the end of the quarter, Yale headed into halftime up 30-27.
That lead grew to six with 4:50 left in the third after a three-pointer by Simpson, then grew to seven on a free throw by sophomore guard Roxy Barahman with 2:10 left. Barahman ended the quarter by swishing a three-pointer as time expired to give the Bulldogs their largest lead of the game, nine, heading into the final quarter. She would finish with 16 points and a team-high six assists.
Yale (3-1, 0-0 Ivy League) had shot 50 percent from the field in the third -- and would get even better (77 percent) in the fourth. Barahman scored the first points of the final quarter to build the lead to 11, and hit a layup with 5:21 left to make the score 66-55 Yale.
TCU then enjoyed one last run, outscoring the Bulldogs 11-5 in a span of less than three minutes to close within five. But the three-pointer by guard Amber Ramirez at the end of that run would be the Horned Frogs' last points from the field until just five seconds remained in the game. An 0-for-6 spell gave the Bulldogs all the time they needed to put the game out of reach. Down the stretch of the final 2:41, Barahman hit a pair of layups and a free throw, sophomore forward Megan Gorman grabbed three rebounds and hit four free throws, and Simpson hit a layup.
"From the very tip, it felt like there were so many emotions," said Guth. "To see our team's composure and poise through TCU's run was tremendous. I also publicly want to thank all the members of our support systems who came out to cheer on Yale. It was a huge factor, to feel that sixth man behind the bench."
After time expired, the Bulldogs celebrated and Nelson -- who checked back into the game in the waning moments -- raised her arms in triumph to salute the jubilant Yale section.
"Gabby is the consummate teammate," said Guth. "Hasn't missed a practice in three years, and is so selfless. She never makes it about her and is an absolute joy to coach. It meant the world to our coaching staff and to our team to be able to honor her. You want to think about a kid's character, just look at the entire group of people that came out to support her."
The win also marks a positive end to a long road trip that included a frustrating 81-75 loss at Kansas. The Bulldogs clearly learned from their experience against the Jayhawks, having let a lead slip away in the second half.
"Coming away from Kansas, I felt we had let one get away," said Guth. "The way we played tonight shows the maturity this team has and the belief they have in each other and in our staff. It shows some exciting signs, because they believed and they were able to respond after a really tough loss. TCU is one of the best teams that we've played. To be able to do it on the road, in a total team effort fashion, is something that I personally will never forget. And I don't think there's one person that's part of our family that will ever forget this moment."
Yale returns home and hosts Army West Point on Sunday at 2:00 p.m.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity