Harvard Survives Yale Rally on Senior Night, 68-60

Haywood Wright. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Haywood Wright. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – It was a classic tale of two halves for the Yale women’s basketball team and visiting Harvard on Saturday night. But, unfortunately for the host Bulldogs, the Crimson’s big first half was a bit bigger than Yale’s big second half, and Harvard escaped the Elm City with a 68-60 victory. The Bulldogs, who celebrated Senior Night at the John J. Lee Amphitheater, were led by 14 points from senior Melissa Colborne. Freshman Megan Vasquez had 11 points, as well as a team-best six rebounds, and junior Yoyo Greenfield was the third Yale player scoring in double figures with 10.

Yale, who had won three of its last four games entering the contest, falls to 12-14 overall and 7-5 in the Ivy League. The Crimson improve to 18-7 overall and remain in second place in the Ancient Eight with a 9-2 league mark.

Senior captain Ashley Carter had a season-best eight points in her final home game, and junior Mady Gobrecht added seven. Freshman Alicia Seelaus matched her career best with six points, while senior Haywood Wright and sophomore Michelle Cashen notched two points apiece to round out the Yale scoring effort. Vasquez ran the offense to the tune of a team-high five assists. As a team, the Bulldogs shot 41.2% (21-51) from the floor, 44.4% (4-9) from three-point range and 66.7% (14-21) from the free throw line.

Harvard freshman Victoria Lippert led all players with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Brogan Berry (13 points) and Emma Markley (11) also reached double figures for the Cantabs. The visitors shot 44.4% (27-61) from the field, 40% (6-15) from downtown and 80% (8-10) from the charity stripe.

The Crimson won the battle on the boards, 40-31, though Yale edged its opponent in the turnover battle, 19-17.

Yale gained an early advantage in the first half, grabbing a quick 8-5 edge, but the Crimson offense quickly found its stroke in the form of a 15-0 run to claim a commanding 22-8 lead. Another Harvard spurt would soon follow, and the Cantabs looked poised to run away with the contest, holding a 31-12 advantage with five minutes left in the frame. The Bulldogs would begin to respond with some offense of its own, but Harvard continued to put points on the board and entered the intermission holding a 45-26 lead.

“I think the emotions of Senior Night got the best of us to start the game,” said Chris Gobrecht, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women’s Basketball at Yale. “Then Harvard hit some shots and that gave them some confidence.”

The Crimson shot 54.5% (18-33) from the floor, including a scorching 66.7% (6-9) clip from three-point range, and knocked down all three of their free throw attempts in the half. Yale managed just 33.3% (9-27) shooting from the field, hitting 60% (3-5) of its three-point attempts and 83.3% (5-6) of its tries at the foul line. Berry had all of her points in the opening 20 minutes, leading all players with 13 first-half tallies. Vasquez led Yale with nine in the first half.

It appeared that the second half would be more of the same, as Harvard opened the stanza on a 6-1 run, but the Bulldogs began to trade buckets with the Crimson to stop the 24-point deficit from increasing any further. As the clock ticked past the 10:00 mark, with Yale trailing 59-34, a Greenfield trey sparked a 9-0 Yale spurt that cut the lead to a more manageable 16 points at 59-43. A jumper from Lippert and a layup from Jackie Alemany extended the Harvard cushion back to 20 points, 63-43, with 5:13 left, but the Crimson would not connect on another field goal over the next 4:37 as Yale strung together nine straight once again to cut the lead to 11 at 63-52. Though Harvard had gone cold from the floor, the Cantabs continued to tack on points from the free throw line down the stretch, and Yale still trailed by double figures, 66-54, with one minute remaining in the contest. A Colborne jump shot then cut the lead to 10 points, and Carter stole the ensuing inbounds pass and laid in a bucket to trim the lead to eight points at 66-58. Time was not on the Bulldogs’ side, however, and the final seconds ticked off the clock with the Crimson escaping a raucous Lee Amphitheater with a 68-60 victory.

“We played a very good second half, especially on the defensive end,” said Coach Gobrecht. “We can be proud of our effort tonight.”

After allowing 45 first-half points, the Bulldogs surrendered just about half that total (23) in the second frame while netting 34 of their own after the break. Harvard notched a 32.1% (9-28) mark from the floor in the half, missing all six of three-point attempts and hitting 71.4% (5-7) of its free throws. The Bulldogs, paced by nine points from Colborne during the rally, shot 50% (12-24) from the field, 25% (1-4) from downtown and 60% (9-15) from the charity stripe after the intermission.

Yale will close out the 2009-10 regular season on the road next weekend, trekking to New York for contests with Ivy League foes Columbia and Cornell. The Bulldogs, who swept the Lions and Big Red in New Haven earlier this month, would post the program’s best Ancient Eight record in 21 year with another sweep of the league’s Empire State contingent.

report filed by Drew M. Kingsley, Yale Sports Publicity