Bulldogs’ bench shines as Yale moves into WBI semifinals

The Yale women (17-13) visited Binghamton (20-12) in the second round of the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI), and held on for a 70-64 victory to move into the tournament semifinal.  With the victory, the Bulldogs earned their second-ever postseason win and tied a program record for number of wins in a season. They are now set to face South Alabama at the John J. Lee Amphitheater on Saturday afternoon at 5:00 p.m. on the Ivy League Network.

With the score tied at eight, four minutes into the game, the Elis broke things open with a 16-2 run over the next 8:10. They extended the lead to a high of 19 late in the second quarter before closing out the half with a 17-point lead over the Bearcats. With Jen Berkowitz limited to 11 minutes due to foul trouble, junior forward Alexandra Maund put up six points (3-for-3 shooting) and six rebounds against Alyssa James, the three-time America East Defensive Player of the Year. First-year guard Tori Andrews, who missed the team’s December game against Binghamton due to an injury, came off the bench and went 3-for-3 from beyond the arc to lead Yale with 10 points.

Over the first twenty minutes, the Bulldogs shot 48 percent overall, including 4-for-7 from three. Defensively, they held Binghamton to 24 percent shooting with an 0-for-7 performance from outside the arc. Imani Watkins, the America East Player of the Year and the Bearcats’ all-time leading scorer, was held to two points on 1-for-12 shooting.

Things changed in the second half, as Watkins and her fellow Bearcats clawed their way back into the contest.  Over the first 5:40, Watkins had 6 points and Binghamton scored 17 to cut the lead down to 10 points. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, Maund, Andrew and fellow reserve Mary Ann Santucci scored the team’s last nine points of the third quarter to open the lead to 11 with 10 minutes left.

After Yale increased its lead to 61-48 with 5:18 left in regulation, Binghamton’s full court pressure rattled the Bulldogs and allowed the Bearcats to go on a 13-5 run over the next 2:51.  Coming out of a timeout with less than two minutes remaining, Roxy Barahman beat the press and hit Tamara Simpson for a layup to open the lead to seven. Following several missed shots from both teams, Binghamton’s Rebecca Carmody went coast-to-coast following a Barahman miss and had an old-fashioned three to make it a 68-64 game with 20 seconds left.

Berkowitz was fouled with 17 seconds left, but lost a chance at icing the game when she missed both free throws.  Although given one more chance, Binghamton’s Carly Boland missed a three pointer with 12 seconds left. The defensive rebound was secured by Santucci, the Yale captain, who passed it off to Barahman for an uncontested layup.

Simpson and Berkowitz only had nine points and five rebounds in the last two quarters, but Maund and Andrew scored 14 points and added eight boards.  Watkins had 21 second-half points, while her team had 11 steals and forced 14 Yale turnovers over the last 20 minutes. Unfortunately for the Bearcats, their 3-for-11 three-point shooting and their minus-nine rebounding differential prevented them from ultimately overtaking the Bulldogs.

By game’s end, Yale had four double digit scorers led by Andrew, who hit five of six three-pointers and tied her career high with 16 points.  Maund ended up with a double double, including a career high 14 points and 12 rebounds.

“Maund’s been practicing really hard,” Yale coach Allison Guth said per Yale Athletics.  She’s just a fantastic kid, playing behind a really talented player in [senior forward] Jen Berkowitz.  We needed someone to give us a spark rebounding. She committed to our defensive game plan, and she was physical on offense.”

With the Penn men falling to Kansas, the Harvard men losing to Marquette, 67-60, in the first round of the NIT last Wednesday, the Harvard women losing at Fordham, 65-47, in the first round of the NIT last Friday and the Penn women being defeated at St. John’s, 53-48, in the second round of the NIT on Monday night, the Yale women find themselves as the Ivy League’s last team standing.  If they can defeat South Alabama this weekend, they would face the winner of the Nevada-Central Arkansas matchup for the WBI title and attempt to become the conference’s first postseason champion since the Columbia men won the 2016 CollegeInsider.com Tournament.