PHILADELPHIA – The Yale women's basketball team rallied from a 20 point deficit in the third quarter Saturday evening against Princeton at The Palestra in the Ivy League semifinals, cutting the Tigers' lead to nine points three different times. But the Bulldogs would get no closer. Top-seeded Princeton ended the third with a pair of three-pointers, then started the fourth with a 13-5 run that put the game out of reach. The Tigers eventually came away with a 78-57 win. Sophomore guard Roxy Barahman led Yale with 17 points, while first-year forward Alex Cade added 11.
"I thought our third-quarter fight, making a couple adjustments, showed the true character our kids have," said Allison Guth, Yale's Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Basketball.
Yale (15-13, 8-6 Ivy League) had a 4-2 lead 70 seconds into the game, with all four points coming from sophomore forward Megan Gorman. But the Tigers began pulling away late in the first quarter, turning a one-point lead into an 11 point lead with an 11-1 run. Among Yale's issues were early foul trouble for Barahman, who went to the bench at the 8:28 mark after picking up her second.
"Obviously I'm not planning for that," said Barahman. "I sat on the bench, talked to my teammates, tried to motivate them from the bench. I tried to be as supportive as I could off the floor, then when I got back in there play my game and lead my team."
First-year guard Tori Andrew's free throws at the end of the quarter stopped the Tigers only momentarily. Near the end of the second quarter they made a similar run, 13-0, powered by three three-pointers -- two from guard Carlie Littlefield, who finished with 17 points.
Barahman helped spark Yale's third-quarter run with a three-pointer at the 2:44 mark, drawing Yale within 11. Less than a minute later, Cade's jumper in the lane got the Bulldogs within nine. At that point the Tigers had gone 2:11 without scoring; guard Bella Alarie ended that drought with a free throw after an apparent block by Cade was ruled a foul. Alarie, the Ivy League Player of the Year, would finish with 17 points and 17 rebounds.
Two free throws by Cade and one by Littlefield left the score 52-43 Princeton with less than a minute to play in the third, but the Tigers once again made the most of the end of the quarter. A pair of threes by guard Kenya Holland extended the lead to 15 heading into the fourth.
Princeton (23-5, 12-2 Ivy League) put the game away by outscoring Yale 20-14 in the fourth, never allowing the Bulldogs to get closer than within 16 points. The Tigers advance to play the No. 2 seed Penn, which beat No. 3 seed Harvard in Saturday night's other semifinal. The winner receives the league's automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Yale still harbors hopes of playing in a postseason tournament -- last year, in addition to having one team in the NCAAs, the Ivy League had two teams play in the WNIT and one play in the WBI. Selections are announced this coming Monday.
Whether the season is over or not, 2017-18 remains one of Yale's best. With 15 wins, Yale has matched last season's total -- which had been the team's best win total since winning 16 games in 2011-12. This is the first time in school history Yale has won 15 or more games in back-to-back seasons. Yale's eight Ivy League wins this season are the most since 2012-13.
"Tamara, Jen and Tucci are three amazing players," said Barahman. "I've grown a lot because of them. They're the reason why we're here. They've led this team to where we are; hopefully it's not the last game. Those three definitely had a huge impact on our program."
Part of that legacy will be the experience that all the Bulldogs now have, having been to the Ivy League Tournament for the first time.
"[The tournament] was a lot of fun from start to finish," said Barahman. "Being in this environment was a good step forward for our program."
Guth agreed that the Bulldogs' experience this weekend will pay dividends both in the near term and the long term.
"This is a real NCAA-type tournament feel that our kids get that experience with, so that we get to that level where we're going to 'The Dance'," said Guth. "It's really special to be a part of it."
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity