YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Trailing by as many as 17 points at Youngstown State Friday night, the Yale women's basketball team found itself at an early-season crossroads. A loss would have sent the team home from its Ohio trip winless and with a 2-4 start to the season. But the Bulldogs would not go down without a fight -- and ultimately, they mounted a thrilling comeback to come away with a signature 58-56 win over the Penguins. Junior forward Megan Gorman hit the go-ahead basket with 42 seconds left, capping a night in which she and many others emerged as leaders amidst adversity.
"I'm really proud of our execution down the stretch," said Allison Guth, Yale's Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Basketball. "For that last shot, we wanted a play that would work vs. man and zone. We felt confident getting the ball in Gorman's hands. The handoff to [junior guard] Roxy Barahman was open, but I love the confidence Gorman showed in turning the corner and hitting the shot. It was well-deserved, given the vocal leadership that she and [sophomore guard] Tori Andrew showed throughout the game."
The Bulldogs headed into Friday's game still dealing with the aftereffects of an injury sophomore guard Ellen Margaret Andrews suffered in Wednesday's loss at Cincinnati. With Andrews sidelined, the Bulldogs found a perfect replacement for her in the starting lineup: sophomore forward Alex Cade, playing just over 60 miles from her hometown of Shaker Heights. Cade wound up delivering seven rebounds and four points, including a critical rebound and put-back with 5:19 left that pulled Yale within 53-48.
"We started Cade because, losing EM, we felt like having a big who could be physical, sprint up the floor and be aggressive in the post would help us," said Guth. "She came up big with those rebounds and set the tone with her energy."
For her part, Andrews found ways to contribute even while sidelined.
"I credit Ellen Margaret Andrews -- she was in every coaching huddle," said Guth. "She was part of an incredible effort and embodied our spirit of not giving up."
Cold shooting plagued Yale (3-3, 0-0 Ivy League) throughout the first half, as the Bulldogs fell behind 35-23 while shooting just 30 percent. Fouls also proved to be an issue. Early in the third quarter first-year forward Camilla Emsbo picked up her third foul, sending her to the bench. Just over two minutes later the Bulldogs fell behind by 17.
There were just enough sparks in the early part of the game, though, to keep the Bulldogs going. In the second quarter first-year forward Erin Hill got her first career minutes -- and delivered her first career points, converting a layup in transition.
"How exciting to get Erin Hill on the board!" said Guth. "She has excellent ability in terms of versatility and speed in the post. She came in and did some good things for us offensively."
Another first year, guard Robin Gallagher, also helped keep Yale within striking distance. She scored 10 points -- all in the second and third quarters -- and came up with a critical steal to prevent Youngstown from extending its lead midway through the fourth quarter.
"We absolutely have known this was coming," Guth said of Gallagher's breakout performance. "And we're so excited it came today. Robin is so steady. Roxy's been carrying us, but Robin is really good at setting the table -- and she has been having to defend Roxy in practice."
Defense played a critical role in the comeback. The Bulldogs limited Youngstown (4-2, 0-0 Horizon League) to 17 percent shooting in the fourth quarter and wound up with nine steals for the game -- four from Barahman. Emsbo, in addition to scoring nine points, had four of the team's five blocks.
Barahman finished with 12 points, 10 of which came in the fourth quarter. Her three-pointer with 8:34 left finally got the Bulldog deficit to single digits (51-42), and she hit back-to-back layups midway through the period to turn a 53-50 YSU lead into a 54-53 Yale lead.
YSU eventually tied the game 56-56 on a three-pointer by guard McKenah Peters at 2:02, but after Gorman's go-ahead basket the Penguins came up empty on three desperation three-point attempts.
"We talked about setting the tone in the third quarter," said Guth. "I'm happy with the adjustments we made, going into the zone. Coming away from this road trip, we have a lot of areas that we need to improve. But we want to enjoy this win. It shows the fight that we have in our team."
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity