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Bulldogs Earn First Postseason Win, 68-58 at Northeastern in WBI

This was Yale's first win in a national postseason tournament. (photo by  Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
This was Yale's first win in a national postseason tournament. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

BOSTON – Add one more achievement to the growing list for the 2017-18 Yale women's basketball team: the school's first win in a national postseason tournament. The Bulldogs accomplished that feat Thursday night with a 68-58 win at Northeastern in the first round of the Women's Basketball Invitational.  Senior forward Jen Berkowitz led the way with 23 points, while sophomore guard Roxy Barahman added 12 and first-year guard Tori Andrew had 11. Berkowitz and sophomore forward Megan Gorman had six rebounds each, while junior forward Alexandra Maund added five.

This was the seventh time this season Berkowitz has scored 20 or more points in a game. This time she did it just 20 miles from her hometown of Wayland, Mass.

"That kid just played with so much heart tonight," said Allison Guth, Yale's Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Basketball. "She was just really physical when she got the ball. She also made some great reads off the ball. I'm so happy for her."

Coming off their first appearance in the Ivy League Tournament -- a loss to top-seeded Princeton in the semifinals last Saturday -- the Bulldogs started off cold Thursday night. Yale (16-13, 8-6 Ivy League) shot just 27 percent in the first (4 for 15) but got three-pointers from Andrew and Barahman to help keep pace with Northeastern, which got two threes from guard Jess Genco. The score was tied 12-12 entering the second quarter.

Andrew hit a pair of threes in a span of 18 seconds midway through the second to allow Yale to break out to a 26-18 lead at 6:11. A driving layup by Barahman extended the lead to 13, 33-20, two minutes later.

Northeastern trimmed the lead slightly in the final minutes, but Yale still headed into halftime up 35-25 -- powered by 11 points each from Andrew and Berkowitz.

"Tori helps us stretch that defense," said Guth. "Starting from the shootaround, she really looked confident shooting the ball. She forced them out of that 2-3 zone."

Berkowitz opened the third quarter by draining a three-pointer, setting the tone early. But the Bulldogs hit a dry spell -- 0-for-5 from the field -- that enabled the Huskies to creep back within seven late in the quarter. Senior guard Mary Ann Santucci snapped the spell with a layup. Berkowitz then made a pair of layups to get the lead up to 11, and the score was 45-38 Yale heading into the final quarter.

After Northeastern closed within eight, 51-43 with 7:14 left, the Bulldogs called timeout. Senior guard Tamara Simpson then hit a layup and drew a foul, giving Yale some breathing room. Her three-pointer two minutes later got the lead back up to 10.

Genco provided some late sparks for Northeastern (16-15, 11-7 CAA), including a three-pointer that got her to the 1,000 career point mark, but after a three-pointer by Clark brought the Huskies within four at 56-52 Berkowitz' layup and free throw sparked a 12-6 run that closed out the win for the Bulldogs.

Despite the late heroics, Genco did not do quite as much damage as she had in her previous game -- when she hit seven threes and scored 23 points. Guth credited Santucci for keeping the Huskies' star contained.

"Tucci was so good defensively," said Guth. "The way she took Genco out set the tone for the game."

This was Yale's second appearance in a national postseason tournament, having played in the first round of the WNIT in 2011.

The WBI is in its ninth season and features a 16 team, single-elimination bracket. Yale advances to face Binghamton, which beat Youngstown State, in the quarterfinals. That game will be played at Binghamton Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.

This is the fourth time in school history Yale has won 16 or more games in a season. The Bulldogs need one more win to tie the school record of 17, set in 1979-80.

Those records were very much a part of the motivation for Thursday's win -- along with some inpiring words from some recent alums, delivered in video form as the players rode the bus to the game.

"Tonight's effort said a lot about our kids wanting to do something special here," said Guth. "They took advantage of the opportunity to be playing in March. We played with some gratefulness and a lot of pride. Hearing from the alums -- as a coach we talk about building a family, and about how much it means to have the chance to put the uniform on. Some times that message is best received hearing it from someone they know who has come before them."

Report by Sam Rubin '95 (sam.rubin@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity