NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Thursday was a historic day in many ways for the Yale women's basketball team -- but it did not quite have the storybook ending the Bulldogs would have wanted. With Indiana making its first visit to Lee Amphitheater Yale once again pushed a team from a Power Five conference to the limit, leading the Hoosiers with five minutes to play. Senior guard Tamara Simpson was the primary catalyst -- she scored a career-high 31 points, including the 1,000th point of her career. But in the end a late 15-7 run by Indiana proved decisive, and the Hoosiers came away with a 72-68 win.
Earlier this season Yale (7-4, 0-0 Ivy League) had beaten one Big 12 team (TCU) and taken another (Kansas) to the wire before falling by six points. So the presence in Lee Amphitheater of a team from a Power Five conference did not faze the Bulldogs. The Big Ten has little history of coming to New Haven -- prior to Indiana's visit the only current members of the conference that had played at Lee Amphitheater both came before the official start of Big Ten play in 1983 (Rutgers in 1976 and Wisconsin in 1980).
"I think we've built some confidence, being able to go on the road against a Big 12 team like TCU and take them down," said Allison Guth, Yale's Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Basketball. "Our focus today was we were going to change the tempo in how we defended. You have to do that against a good offensive team that has so many threats. You have to keep them out of their rhythm."
Indiana (7-6, 0-0 Big Ten) jumped out to a 6-0 lead, prompting an early Yale timeout. But after that the Bulldogs quickly chipped away at the deficit, and they eventually went ahead 12-10 on a three-pointer by first-year forward Ellen Margaret Andrews -- part of a 13-point day for her.
Next came some program history. Simpson had ended Yale's last game, a 70-49 win at Saint Peter's, with 998 career points. It did not take her long on Thursday to get the necessary points to become the 20th member of the Bulldogs' 1,000-point club. After a defensive rebound by senior forward Jen Berkowitz -- one of eight boards on the day for her -- sophomore guard Roxy Barahman quickly worked the ball ahead to Simpson for a layup at the 4:47 mark.
"I came out pretty cold, to be honest," said Simpson. "I wasn't nervous, but I was aware that I was only two points away from it. I was trying not to focus on it, but it's hard not to when you're so close. We got a good rebound, beat them in transition, and Roxy gave me a great pass. I just did what I was used to doing, I put it up. I heard my parents cheering as I was running down, and saw my teammates smiling. I was really happy that they were so supportive and I was able to share it. Usually in the game I'm really focused and don't care about how many steals I get, or how many points, but they didn't let me forget that."
Those points were part of a 21-7 run that sent Yale into the second quarter with an eight-point lead. The lead reached 10 twice in the second quarter before a later Hoosiers run cut it to four. A jumper by junior forward Alexandra Maund made the score 35-29 Yale heading into halftime.
A slow start to the third quarter would prove costly for Yale, as Indiana went on an 8-0 run that included three-pointers from guard Tyra Buss (20 points) and forward Amanda Cahill (16 points). Simpson halted the run with a layup, but the Hoosiers outscored Yale 22-10 in the quarter.
Trailing by six heading into the final quarter, Yale would not go quietly. A steal and layup by Simpson -- one of five steals on the day for her -- capped a 9-2 Bulldogs run at the start of the fourth. Now trailing by three, the Hoosiers had an answer of their own. A jumper by Buss provided the first of seven straight Indiana points. That span also saw Berkowitz head to the bench with her fourth foul.
Still, Yale battled back. A three-pointer by Barahman with 2:16 left cut the deficit to 64-63, and the Bulldogs trailed by only three when Simpson stole the ball from Buss with 43 seconds to play. But after a missed three-point attempt that could have tied the game, the Bulldogs had to foul, and two free throws by guard Bendu Yeaney provided the Hoosiers with a five-point cushion. Simpson hit a three with two seconds left, but Yeaney's two free throws put the finishing touches on the four-point Indiana win.
Just a few plays away from celebrating a signature win, the Bulldogs instead must learn from another hard-fought loss.
"The thing that we're focused on as a coaching staff, we don't want it just to be a moral victory," said Guth. "Give a lot of credit to Indiana. They're well-coached, they run a ton of sets, they're confident with what they do, they came up with a lot of rebounds that we didn't out of that zone. But hopefully our kids can come away from this knowing that if we pay attention to detail in a few execution situations on our defensive end and our offensive end, this could be a different story for us."
Yale returns to action on Thursday Dec. 28 in the Bronx, playing UC Davis in the first round of the Fordham Holiday Classic.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity