NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Trailing upset-minded Columbia 56-54 with six minutes left in the game Friday night, the Yale women's basketball team was in a tight spot -- but also a familiar situation. Having seen three of their previous four games come down to the final minute of regulation with the score tied or within two, these Bulldogs are now battle-tested. That showed down the stretch at Lee Amphitheater Friday, as Yale outscored the Lions 15-5 to pull out a 69-61 win.
Fridays in particular have provided some real thrillers lately, as the Bulldogs beat archrival Harvard on a buzzer-beater two weeks ago and then notched their first win at Princeton in 10 years last week, topping the Tigers in overtime. Those two wins are a big reason why Yale (15-7, 5-2 Ivy League) now finds itself all alone in second place in the Ivy standings, a half-game ahead of Princeton and a full game ahead of Harvard.
"It's fun," said junior guard Roxy Barahman of playing in so many close games. "We know we've been there, we know we can play with anyone. We definitely have confidence going down the stretch, which is what we need to come up big with stops and to get a score. The fact that we have been in those situations has helped a lot with our confidence."
Columbia (6-14, 2-5 Ivy League) made it clear from the start that nothing would come easily for Yale on this night. The Lions opened the game with a 10-0 run, including four points from guard Janiya Clemmons (en route to 21 for the game) and three from guard Riley Casey (en route to 23 for the game).
Yale eventually batted back to take a one-point lead into halftime, 33-32. For Allison Guth, Yale's Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Basketball, that was another testament to the Bulldogs' maturity.
"What I liked [after Columbia's early run], you saw Roxy and [junior forward Megan] Gorman's leadership," said Guth. "They said 'Hey, let's take a breath.' We didn't need to call a timeout … they just handled it on the floor."
Barahman had 12 points by then, but also important were the minutes one of Yale's other guards -- first-year Mackenzie Hewitt -- provided off the bench as the Bulldogs worked to solve Columbia's zone defense.
"What I really liked about Mack this week, she does a tremendous job shifting the zone," said Guth. "Her pass fakes, her vision and how she moves -- I think she's tremendous. When she came in the game I thought she did amazing ball pressure, really cutting kids off and being aggressive."
The Bulldogs got their lead up to seven on a three-pointer by Gorman at 5:13 of the third, but Columbia fought back to tie the game 49-49 heading into the fourth.
A jumper by forward Sienna Durr with 6:10 to play gave Columbia that 56-54 lead, but 90 seconds later the Bulldogs took the lead for good on a layup by first-year forward Camilla Emsbo. She would finish with 17 points -- second only to Barahman (25) -- despite facing plenty of defensive pressure in the paint from the Lions.
"Something we've been talking about is the post being pass-dependent," said Emsbo. "I thought that we did a great job of taking advantage of that. The guards did a great job of looking inside. We knew that their game plan was going to be to double-up inside, and I think our posts also did a great job of kicking it out."
Barahman's jumper with 45 seconds left, after Columbia had closed within five, helped seal the Lions' fate. She and sophomore forward Alex Cade finished with a team-best 10 rebounds. This was Barahman's fifth double-double of the season, and she added five steals (tying her season high).
Yale finished with 18 assists, tied for the second-most this season, and just 12 turnovers. This was the Bulldogs' 11th straight home win. They host Cornell Saturday at 5:00 p.m.
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Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity