ITHACA, N.Y. – The Yale women's basketball team certainly made the most of its trip to New York this weekend. With a 65-55 win over Cornell at Newman Arena Saturday, the Bulldogs capped a weekend sweep -- and the two wins catapulted Yale from fifth place to a tie for third place in the Ivy League standings. With six games remaining, the Bulldogs are on pace to earn one of the four spots in the Ivy League Tournament Mar. 10-11 in Philadelphia.
This was Yale's first win at Cornell in five years, and seniors led the way in their final trip to Ithaca. For the second time in as many games senior forward Jen Berkowitz led the Bulldogs in scoring, totaling 18 points and shooting 8-for-10 from the field. She also added a team-best eight rebounds. Senior guard Tamara Simpson added 17 points, shooting 3-for-6 from three-point territory and adding four steals.
"With Berk, we thought we could be aggressive scoring inside," said Allison Guth, Yale's Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Basketball. "Cornell is revamping their roster, with five starters from last year having graduated, and we felt we could capitalize on our experience on the block. Tamara's defensive intensity was just awesome this weekend. She scored some key points, but her force was really setting the tone with the way she rebounded and the way she communicated with her teammates. I'm just happy we could get our senior class a win at Cornell. I give them a lot of credit."
Building off the momentum of Friday's 73-50 win at Columbia, Yale (12-9, 5-3 Ivy League) raced out to a 7-0 lead before Cornell finally got on the scoreboard more than two minutes into the game. The Big Red eventually climbed all the way back to take a 9-8 lead, but the Bulldogs responded with a three-pointer from senior guard Mary Ann Santucci. Six points from Berkowitz, who also had three rebounds, highlighted the first quarter as the Bulldogs came away with a 15-11 lead.
Cornell (6-15, 2-6 Ivy League) closed to within two, 25-23, on a layup by forward Christine Ehland at 3:03 of the second, prompting a Yale timeout. The Bulldogs responded with a three-pointer from sophomore guard Roxy Barahman, then got one from Simpson en route to taking a 31-25 lead into halftime.
That Simpson three wound up being the start of a 10-0 run, which concluded early in the third with a three from Barahman and a pair of layups by Berkowitz. All four of Yale's baskets in that span were assisted; first-year forward Ellen Margaret Andrews had two assists, while Santucci and Simpson had one each.
The Big Red would not go quietly, though, despite entering the fourth quarter down by 13. Cornell had closed to within nine points, 48-39, and seemed to be gaining momentum when Andrews stepped into the lane to draw a charging call after a Big Red offensive rebound with less than nine minutes to play. Berkowitz and Barahman then scored to increase Yale's cushion.
"We weren't locked in defensively for a couple plays before that," said Guth. "EM came down and was able to change the momentum of the game."
A layup by Big Red forward Samantha Widmann, part of a 23-point night for her, brought Cornell within eight with 4:54 to play. But Barahman's layup and foul shot 37 seconds later started a 6-1 run that helped Yale close out the win.
Yale finished with four double-digit scorers, as Andrews (10) and Barahman (12) joined Berkowitz and Simpson. Sophomore forward Megan Gorman added seven rebounds, helping Yale to a 36-30 advantage on the boards. The Bulldogs limited Cornell to a 38.8 percent shooting performance while shooting 47.1 percent themselves -- including 8-for-17 from three-point territory.
"If we lock in and execute defensively, we've proven we can hang with a lot of teams," said Guth.
Later Saturday night, Harvard's 69-49 loss at Penn dropped the Crimson into a tie with Yale for third in the Ivy standings, one game ahead of Dartmouth and 1.5 games behind league-leading Penn and Princeton. The Bulldogs host the Big Green and the Crimson next weekend.
"We're trying to take it one game at a time, one trip at a time," said Guth. "Tucci brought it up to me after the game -- that's the first time in a long time we've swept a road trip [Feb. 15-16, 2013 was the last time Yale won both games on a league road trip]. Each night you have got to respect your opponent and play with urgency, especially when you're fighting for a spot in the postseason. There's a lot of basketball left to play."
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity