Graf, Vasquez Lead Bulldogs' Second-Half Charge in Ivy League Showdown at Harvard
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The Yale University women's basketball team trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half of Friday's game against their fiercest rival, but that never deterred the Bulldogs, who orchestrated a stunning second-half rally to run away with the victory.
Megan Vasquez scored 13 of her 15 points in the second half and grabbed seven rebounds to lead Yale to a come-from-behind, 68-63 win over Harvard in Cambridge Friday night.
Sophomore guard Janna Graf scored a game-high 16 points to go with eight rebounds and three steals to lead the Bulldogs (10-7, 2-1 Ivy League). Freshman guard Sarah Halejian had 11 points and four rebounds in the victory, while senior captain Michelle Cashen added nine points and seven rebounds.
Christine Clark scored 10 of her 16 points in the second half to lead Harvard (8-8, 1-1 Ivy League). Victoria Lippert added 15 points.
It was Yale's third straight win over Harvard and second straight win over the Crimson in Cambridge. Winning at Harvard is not easy for any road team to do. Prior to Friday's win, Harvard held a 33-8 record at home since the 2008-09 season, which included a 17-4 mark in Ivy League play. Also entering Friday's game, Harvard had won seven of its last eight Ivy League contests at home, with Yale handing Harvard its only loss in that span, a 78-64 decision last season.
"Anytime you win in the Ivy League, where you just have to tough it out, you feel pretty good about yourself. Of course, there is that little extra that it is Harvard. There's no question that it gets us a little more pumped than usual," said Chris Gobrecht, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954, Head Coach of Women's Basketball. "It was just a really hard-fought game. Those were two teams that really wanted that game badly. I am really proud of how we stayed tough."
Yale trailed 28-18 with 1:02 left in the opening half, but the Bulldogs (10-7, 2-1 Ivy League) closed the half with a short 6-1 run that proved to be a sign of things to come.
"Our coaches ripped on us (in the halftime locker room speech) about boxing out," Cashen said. "They got a lot of (offensive) boards against us. We weren't attacking as well as we should have. They really wanted us to push in transition, and I think that really helped us in the second half. We got a lot of good looks, open looks, off of our transition."
Yale continued the run after the halftime break was over, scoring the first 12 points of the second half to take a 36-29 lead and knock Harvard on its heels. The Crimson called a timeout in an effort to collect themselves and slow the Bulldogs. However, contrary to the way things went in the first half, every time Harvard made a run in the second half, Yale had an answer for it.
With Yale on top 41-33 with 15:02 remaining, Harvard clawed its way back into the game thanks to a 12-3 run that put the Crimson back on top 45-44 with 10:56 to play.
The two teams took turns with the lead over the next five minutes, with neither team able to extend its lead past three points. A pair of free throws from Emma Golen put Harvard ahead 55-52 with 5:30 left, but that turned out to be the last time that Harvard had the lead in the game.
Yale turned things around with an 8-0 run that was capped with a 3-pointer by Graf, putting Yale on top 60-55 with 4:29 left.
Harvard trimmed Yale's lead to 62-61 on a Miriam Rutzen jumper with 1:24 left, but Halejain's old-fashioned 3-point play with 26 seconds remaining secured the victory for the Bulldogs.
Forced to foul in an attempt to stay in the game in the closing seconds, Harvard put Vasquez on the free-throw line twice in the last 17 seconds, and she sank three of her four attempts to give Yale all the comfort it needed.
"It is an unbelievable feeling," Cashen said. "For my fourth year, I couldn't ask for more than to go out on a sweet note like this, but we still have to play them again. We have to come out stronger than we did this time and hopefully get another 'W.' "