PHILADELPHIA – With a spot in the Ivy League Tournament clinched and time dwindling down in the regular season, the Yale women's basketball team got a rare opportunity Friday night -- the chance to test itself against one of the league's top teams in the venue that will host the Ivy tournament next week. Facing a Penn squad that was just a game ahead of them in the standings, the Bulldogs hit some adversity early at The Palestra. But after falling behind by as many as 17 in the first quarter, Yale showed the type of tenacity that will be needed for the postseason. A 21-9 second quarter run got the Bulldogs within two of the Quakers, making sure this would not be an easy night for the defending Ivy champs. Yale was within five points with just over five minutes left before a late Penn run made the final 64-52.
"Playing a team like this at this point of the year is huge for us," said Allison Guth, Yale's Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Basketball. "We have tried a couple different game plans against them. We did some good things defensively, but we really have to work offensively to execute versus their zone. They gave us some things we are going to have to work on."
Yale (15-11, 8-5 Ivy League) started off cold against some tough defense from Penn, hitting just one of 11 shots from the field in the first quarter. With five Penn players scoring at least four points each in the quarter, the Quakers jumped out to a 22-8 lead.
The second quarter was a different story, however. After a layup by center Eleah Parker got Penn's lead to 16 less than a minute in, first-year guard Tori Andrew started a Bulldog run with a layup. Yale would outscore the Quakers 19-5 to end the half, with sophomore guard Roxy Barahman capping that streak with a last-second three-pointer. First-year forward Alex Cade had five rebounds in the quarter, providing Yale with a spark off the bench.
"It's super awesome to see a kid who works so hard step up in some really big moments these last two weekends," said Guth, referring to Cade's role in Yale's 69-56 win vs. Cornell a week ago. "She fought physically with those bigs, and she was aggressive offensively -- looking to score."
Penn (19-7, 10-3 Ivy League) kept the Bulldogs at bay with a 6-0 run midway through the third that was snapped by a pair of free throws from senior guard Tamara Simpson with 2:31 left. The Quakers led 45-35 heading into the final quarter.
Yale would not go away, however. A layup and a jumper by Cade in a span of less than a minute early in the fourth got the Bulldogs back within five, and Barahman then answered a Parker layup with a jumper to get the score to 49-44 with 5:34 left.
The Bulldogs got no closer, however, as a three-pointer by Penn guard Ashley Russell started a 15-6 run that finally put the game out of reach. Senior forward Jen Berkowitz hit Yale's final basket, with nine seconds left, to finish the night with seven points -- putting her two away from 1,000 for her career.
Barahman finished with a team-high 14 points, while Cade paced the Bulldogs in rebounds with seven and added eight points. Yale limited Penn to a 30.4 percent shooting performance (21 for 69 from the field).
"We had a good game plan, forcing them into tough shots and fixing how we recovered to shooters," said Guth. "Still, we gave up too many offensive rebounds."
While the Bulldogs still have a guaranteed spot in the Ivy League tournament, Friday's loss leaves them in fourth place with one game left. The Bulldogs trail third-place Harvard -- whose game Friday at Cornell was postponed due to the storm that hit the Northeast -- by half a game, and would need to win Saturday and have the Crimson lose at least once this weekend to earn the No. 3 seed.
Penn remains in contention for the Ivy League title with the win, as the Quakers trail Princeton by one game with one game left. Yale plays the Tigers in the last game of the regular season Saturday at 5:00 p.m.
The top four teams in the final standings advance to the Ivy League Tournament at The Palestra next weekend. The tournament determines which team receives the league's automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. Last year, in addition to Penn's appearance in the NCAAs, the Ivy League also had two teams make the WNIT and one make the WBI.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (email@example.com), Yale Sports Publicity