NEW HAVEN, Conn. — After a slow start, the Yale University women's basketball team put together a second-half rally that fell just short of a complete comeback against its rivals from Harvard.
Unfortunately, the Bulldogs did not have an answer for Harvard sophomore forward Temi Fagbenle, who scored a career-high 20 points with nine rebounds in 22 minutes to lead Harvard to a 67-54 win over Yale inside John J. Lee Amphitheater Friday night.
The loss drops the Bulldogs to 6-11 overall, 1-2 in Ivy League play. Harvard improves to 11-6 overall, 2-1 in Ivy League play. Yale returns to the court to complete the back-to-back weekend on Saturday against visiting Dartmouth at 6 p.m.
"I think there were a couple of pivotal moments where the game could have gone either way and we just were not able to cash in on them," said Chris Gobrecht, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954, Head Coach of Women's Basketball. "I thought that we got a couple of turnovers there and had a chance to score some easy buckets and we didn't do it."
Senior guard Megan Vasquez tallied 13 points, four rebounds, and four assists to lead the Bulldogs. Junior guard Janna Graf fell just short of a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds, while sophomore guard Sarah Halejian recorded 10 points and two blocks.
In the first half, Yale briefly led 5-4 at the 16:45 mark, but Harvard came to life with a 17-2 run, with eight of those points coming from Fagbenle, to take a 21-7 lead midway through the half. Yale trimmed that deficit to just eight points, 28-20, with 2:50 left in the half on a pair of free throws by Graf, but Harvard scored the final four points of the period to take a 32-20 halftime lead.
Thanks to a pair of 3-pointers from Graf and a layup from Vasquez, Yale sliced the deficit in half inside of the opening two minutes of the second half, 34-28.
After another hoop from Fagbenle and one from Christine Clark gave Harvard a 38-28 lead, Yale responded with a 7-0 run thanks to four points from junior center Zenab Keita to make it a one-possession game, 38-35, with 13:54 left.
Harvard pushed its lead to 45-38 at the midway point of the half, but Yale rallied again with a 7-2 run thanks to 3-pointers from Halejian and senior captain Allie Messimer that cut Yale's deficit to 47-44 with 9:43 left.
Harvard took control with an 18-6 run that put the Crimson ahead 65-50 with 1:22 left and secured the victory.
"We made the mountain to high to climb," Gobrecht said. "I was not pleased with how we started. The last 30 minutes of the game, I thought we were fine, but we just started too slow and that was disappointing. We just didn't hit anything in the first half. We were open and we couldn't hit anything. We came out in the second half and hit those shots and I thought we were going to be OK, but we just couldn't get over the hump."
Yale's first-half struggles proved to be too much to recover from. The Bulldogs shot just 7-for-36 (19.4 percent) overall and 3-for-14 (21.4 percent) from 3-point range in the half.
Harvard dominated the paint, outscoring Yale 40-12, and outrebounding the Bulldogs 50-44.
Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity