BOCA RATON, Fla. – The first game back after a break for the holidays provided the Yale women's basketball team with plenty of challenges Friday afternoon in the first round of the FAU Holiday Classic. The Bulldogs -- who had four players out -- saw both of their top two scorers get into foul trouble early, and they fell behind Saint Louis by as many as eight points. But with a tenacious defense keeping things close, in the end Yale pieced together enough offense to stage a fourth-quarter rally and earn a 58-52 win. Junior forward Megan Gorman, playing in her home state, grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds and tied junior guard Roxy Barahman for the team lead with 11 points.
Yale (9-5, 0-0 Ivy League) saw both of its top two scorers -- Barahman and first-year forward Camilla Emsbo -- pick up two fouls in the first half. That forced the Bulldogs to get creative with their lineup. They utilized six different players off the bench, led by 22 minutes from sophomore guard Ale Aguirre. She hit back-to-back three pointers at the end of the first quarter to give Yale an early 16-10 lead.
"We went small because we thought we had some match-ups," said Allison Guth, Yale's Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Basketball. "Ale did terrific off the bench with her intensity, and when we asked her to play the point. [Senior guard] Gabby [Nelson] gave us some good minutes, keeping people in front of her defensively. [First-year forward] Erin Hill did some really nice things on the offensive glass, and we needed that."
But Saint Louis (4-8, 0-0 Atlantic 10) would storm back in the second quarter, outscoring the Bulldogs 18-6. The Billikens led by as many as eight in the third quarter and took a 41-35 lead into the fourth.
The Bulldogs turned things around early in the fourth thanks to a 10-0 run that was jump-started by a layup from sophomore guard Tori Andrew and five straight points from sophomore forward Alex Cade. Cade would finish with eight points and eight rebounds, while Andrew had nine points and three assists.
Saint Louis answered with a 9-3 run that tied the game 50-50 with a minute left. Barahman then took over, sinking a pair of free throws and -- after SLU tied the game again on the next possession -- driving baseline for the go-ahead layup with 37 seconds left. Emsbo stuffed SLU's attempt at a follow-up shot, and late free throws by Andrew and Gorman sealed the win.
Gorman getting the final two points seemed fitting on a day when she put on a show for her hometown fans, grabbing five rebounds more than any other player in the game.
"Talk about a kid who was an absolute monster on the boards," said Guth. "When we got into foul trouble early she stepped up big time and played our post position. With rebounding, it's two things -- eye-body quickness and heart/toughness. That kid's got both of them."
The Bulldogs also were aided by the fact they had some familiar faces in the stands even though they were more than 1,100 miles from New Haven, Conn. The Yale men's and women's swimming and diving teams -- training at Boca Raton High School over winter break -- came out together to fill the stands behind the Yale bench.
"I really would like to thank Jim Henry [Yale's Robert J.H. Kiphuth Coach of Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving], his staff and their team for the amazing support they gave our kids. That program has a championship culture, and for them to take the time to support us means so much. They were the 'Sixth Dog' today. That's what being part of this Bulldog family is all about."
On Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Yale plays North Carolina A&T for the tournament championship. The Aggies knocked off Florida Atlantic in the first game Friday, 67-65.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity