Graf Powers Yale Past First-Place Harvard

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Janna Graf. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Four Bulldogs Score In Double Figures To Hand Crimson First Ivy Loss

 

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Heading into the final weekend of the first round of Ivy League action, the Yale University women's basketball team appeared to be on the outside looking in on the race for the Ivy League's berths in the NCAA and WNIT postseason tournaments.

The Bulldogs entered the weekend tied with Columbia for third place in the standings at 4-2 in Ivy play. Harvard was unbeaten and in first place at 5-0 after handing second-place Princeton (4-1) its first Ivy loss since the 2008-09 season.

While there is still a lot of basketball left to play, it now looks as if there will not be a runaway champion in the Ivy League, thanks in large part to a stellar defensive effort by the Bulldogs and another standout performance from freshman forward Janna Graf Friday night.

Graf scored 12 of her game-high 21 points in the second half, dished out seven assists and grabbed six rebounds to lead Yale to an 82-71 win over Harvard in Ivy League action at John J. Lee Amphitheater Friday.

Four Bulldogs scored in double figures. Besides Graf, three other starters reached double digits. Sophomore guard Megan Vasquez scored 13 points, 11 in the second half, and grabbed six rebounds. Senior forward Mady Gobrecht and junior forward Michelle Cashen each added 11 points. Gobrecht also had six rebounds and Cashen pulled down five boards. Sophomore guard Aarica West matched her career-high with nine points. She also had seven assists and three steals.

"It's an awesome feeling," Gobrecht said. "Seriously, I have wanted to play this game since we lost here on Senior Night last year. It just means a lot to win this game. We haven't been giving a good effort against them the last two years. We haven't beaten them since my freshman year and they are our biggest rivals. It makes this win mean so much more."

Yale (9-12, 5-2 Ivy League) opened the game with a 9-2 run that proved to be a sign of things to come in the opening half. Harvard (13-7, 5-1 Ivy) pulled back into the game briefly behind an 8-4 run that trimmed the early deficit to 13-10 with 11:03 to play in the half.

Yale's offense returned to its early form and scored the next six points on 3-pointers from senior captain Yoyo Greenfield and sophomore guard Allie Messimer to take a 19-10 lead.

Harvard tried to respond, but with every Crimson basket, the Bulldogs seemed to respond with another run to extend the lead even further. The Bulldogs outscored the Crimson 20-7 over the final 8:09 to go into the halftime break with a 39-19 lead. Yale forced 10 Harvard turnovers behind six steals and scored 14 points off of those turnovers.

Defensively, it was one of the most dominating halves of the season for the Bulldogs.

"I thought we had tremendous defensive energy in the first half," said Chris Gobrecht, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954, Head Coach of Women's Basketball. "They are an outstanding offensive team as you saw in the second half. They are the best offensive team in the league. I thought we were so energized in the way that we jumped on them at the start that they were just off balance offensively. You could see how much the game meant to us. It translated into what we were doing on defense in the first half."

Harvard did not go away quietly, however. Following the first official timeout of the half at the 15:47 mark, Victoria Lippert's layup capped a 12-6 run that cut the deficit to 45-31. The Bulldogs responded with an 8-2 run to reclaim a 20-point advantage at 53-33, but Harvard refused to give up on the game. The Crimson trailed by 20 points as late as 8:08, and that's where it began to make a move.

"We got a little soft in the second half because we got tired and we had a big lead and then they found their rhythm and you saw what they were capable of," Coach Gobrecht said. "I thought a big key to this win was our ability to answer in the second half. It seemed like they scored every time they came down the floor and we answered most of the time. That was huge."

Little by little, the Crimson chipped away at the Bulldogs' lead and got as close as eight points, 77-69, with 1:06 remaining. Forced to foul at that point, Harvard sent Yale to the line six times in the final 2:06. The Bulldogs went 7-for-11 from the free-throw line in that stretch to put the game out of reach.

Lippert led Harvard with 18 points, 14 in the second half, and eight rebounds. Brogan Berry added 16 points, 10 in the second half, and seven assists.

Yale returns to action Saturday when Dartmouth visits the John J. Lee Amphitheater for the final act of Yale's WBCA Pink Zone event. The Pink Zone event begins at 10 a.m. at Payne Whitney Gymnasium. Yale and Dartmouth tip off at 7 p.m.

"We have to do one of the hardest things there is in sports. We have to come back and play a very good team after an emotional win," Coach Gobrecht said. "I think our players know how important it is against Dartmouth. For the Harvard win to mean something, we have to come back and take care of Dartmouth Saturday. Dartmouth has won more Ivy championships than anybody. They know what they're doing and we know we're in for a tough game."

Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity