Bulldogs Rally from 14-Point Deficit to Tie Game, but Fall Short in Closing Seconds
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The Yale University women's basketball team had postseason dreams entering the final weekend of the regular season, and the players wanted to give their lone senior, Michelle Cashen, at least one more game to play before her Yale career reached an end, but a Penn team that had not won in New Haven in five years, spoiled all of those dreams, ending Yale's season sooner than they had hoped.
Sophomore Alyssa Baron and freshman Jackie Kates each scored 13 points, with Baron grabbing eight rebounds to go with four assists and four steals, to lead Penn to a 61-58 win over Yale Saturday night inside John J. Lee Amphitheater.
The loss ended Yale's season, eliminating the Bulldogs from contention for the Ivy League's automatic bid in the WNIT, which goes to the team that finishes in second place. Harvard, with its win over Cornell Saturday, clinched second place and the WNIT bid.
With the loss, the Bulldogs finish the season 16-12 overall, which ties the program record for the most wins in a season. They also finish with an 8-6 record in Ivy League play, which is good enough for a third-place finish in the standings.
"It is a huge disappointment," said Chris Gobrecht, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954, Head Coach of Women's Basketball. "The things that haunted us all year really bit us in the butt tonight. I'm really sorry for Michelle. I feel really bad for her. I thought she played hard. I thought she gave it everything she had, but I thought she needed a little help from her teammates."
Penn used its advantage in the paint to dominate play for most of the game. Yale held a short-lived 4-3 lead in the opening minutes, but the Quakers' rebounding ability allowed them to pull ahead by as many as 14 points, 46-32, with 14:33 left in the game.
Yale finally got things rolling in the right direction in the closing minutes behind the play of junior guard Megan Vasquez. After Kates drained a 3-pointer with 7:15 to play to put Penn on top 55-45, Vasquez led a Yale charge by scoring seven points in a 13-2 run that helped Yale reclaim the lead, 58-57, with 3:10 to play.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, that was the end of the offensive push. Yale missed five shots, including three layups, over the final 2:16, while Penn sank a pair of layups to pull ahead for good.
Vasquez scored 13 of her game-high 17 points in the second half. In the final game of her Yale career, Cashen recorded 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Sophomore guard Janna Graf tallied 12 points and eight rebounds.
Penn outrebounded Yale 38-33 and outscored the Bulldogs 42-28 in the paint and 17-4 on second-chance opportunities.
Now the Bulldogs are left to wonder what could have been. After finishing the non-league portion of the schedule at 8-6, their best non-league record since 1993-94, and starting Ivy League play with a 6-2 mark, the Bulldogs closed the season with four losses in their last five games, with three of those losses coming at home.
"All year, we were better on the road," Gobrecht said. "We just were not a good home team this year. It was pretty consistent that we played better on the road. I think it is because of our focus. We were more focused on the road. When we're home, we get distracted. As a team, we are really young, so I think that is why we are so vulnerable to distraction when we're home. I think we kind of lose our togetherness when we're home. We don't tend to play nearly as well together and for some reason, I don't feel like we play as hard."
Now the Bulldogs must look to next season, when the entire squad minus Cashen will return and will get help from four incoming freshmen, including two impact post players in Meredith Boardman and Emmy Allen, who are expected to provide a big boost to Yale's interior play.
Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity