This game didn’t go anything like the coaches drew it up. But Penn came back with some clutch plays in a defensive struggle to beat Yale, 53-51, Saturday afternoon in New Haven.
Credit two starting guards for Penn (15-5, 5-2), senior captains Phoebe Sterba and Kendall Grasela, with pulling this one out after Yale (15-6, 5-3) built a 10-point lead in the second half. The Quakers’ headliners, junior center Eleah Parker and first-year shooting guard Kayla Padilla, had long stretches when they couldn’t buy a basket, but Sterba canned 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds, and Grasela — who directs the offense while averaging just 3.5 shots a game — had 11 points and five assists.
Yale is known for thievery, but this time it was Penn’s harassing defense that was crucial in the win: The Quakers scored 19 points on turnovers versus six for Yale.
For Yale, as usual, playmaker Roxy Barahman led the way; in the opening five-plus minutes, she hit her first five shots, accounting for 11 of the Elis’ first 13 points. But then she struggled, going just 1-for-15 from the field the rest of the game and 4-for-10 from the line, to finish with 17 points and eight rebounds. It was forward Megan Gorman who had the outstanding afternoon: 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting, plus 16 rebounds and three steals. Camilla Emsbo, who faced off with Parker, also had a double double, with 11 points and 11 rebounds, but missed what would have been the tying free throw with three seconds left.
The battle in the paint, Emsbo vs. Parker, was supposed to be a major story of the game: A year ago at Yale, in Emsbo’s first year, Parker won the battle decisively with a career-best 29 points plus 16 rebounds and four blocks.
And Parker was a defensive force this time around, frustrating Yale inside repeatedly while collecting three blocks and two steals. Trouble was, her shots weren’t falling — 3-for-10 — and foul trouble limited her playing time. In fact, both Parker and backup center Emily Anderson fouled out by the end of the afternoon, a rarity for any player on a highly disciplined Penn team.
Padilla was hot and cold, scoring 11 points with three crucial threes. Penn forward Tori Crawford was simply cold but played the defensive paint well, collecting 11 rebounds. And reserve guard Mia Lakstigala came in for a few crucial minutes late in the second quarter, drew fouls on nice moves to the basket, and collected three points from the foul line.
Penn returns home with a five-game Ivy winning streak to face Dartmouth and Harvard next weekend; Yale will seek recover from a weekend of leads lost and will stay at home against Cornell and Columbia.