Junior forward Bella Alarie walked away from Friday night’s game against Yale (14–6 overall, 4–1 Ivy) with her fourth consecutive double-double, 38 points, six steals, three blocks, and the honor of becoming the 25th woman in Princeton’s history to score 1,000 points. But her outstanding performance was still not enough to deliver a win for her team; the game ended in a 96–86 overtime loss for Princeton (10–9, 2–2).
The Tigers knew heading into the game that to defeat Yale would take a phenomenal effort. The Bulldogs are ranked eighth nationally for defensive rebounds. Led by Roxy Barahman, one of the nation’s most dangerous scorers, their offense is a force to be reckoned with as well; Yale has a field goal percentage of .401 compared to Princeton’s .402.
According to Alarie, the team’s goal was “to come out with the first punch.” But rather than a dominant start from Princeton, the first quarter saw a tooth-and-nail battle between the teams. In 10 minutes, the lead changed eight times and the score was tied six times. No team led by more than two points until, with 43 seconds left on the clock, Barahman sunk a three. Yale held the advantage, 21–18, heading into the second quarter.
Led by efforts from Alarie and senior guard Gabrielle Rush, Princeton jumped to a four-point lead early in the second. But Barahman, who scored 20 of her team’s 42 points in the first 20 minutes, quickly responded. With a series of three-pointers and foul shots, she propelled her team to a 42–39 advantage at the half.
Reflecting on the game’s first half, head coach Courtney Banghart called her team’s play “undisciplined.” Yale was “shooting into an ocean,” she said.
And that didn’t particularly change in the third quarter, which included a 90-second, seven-point spree from Yale. The Bulldogs advanced to a nine-point lead with two minutes left in the period. But thanks to a huge scoring effort by Alarie — who, with 23 points and 12 rebounds, achieved double-double status once again — Princeton reined them back in to start the fourth down only 57–62. Also notably, the Tigers limited Barahman to just three points in the third.
Early in the fourth, Alarie sunk a layup — and with that, she had scored her 1,000th career point.
“It was really exciting to get it on our home floor in front of some of my family members,” said Alarie. “It obviously means a lot as a player that your team trusts you enough to shoot the ball. I’ve been getting better every year.”
Alarie’s milestone didn’t deter Yale’s drive. With just three minutes left in the game, the Bulldogs were up 74–67 — but Princeton’s players kept their cool. Rush nailed a three-pointer. The Bulldogs did too. Sophomore guard Carlie Littlefield and senior guard Qalea Ismail responded with a field goal each to narrow the Bulldogs’ lead to two. With 26 seconds on the clock, Alarie sunk a three; Yale pulled ahead with two free throws. And then, with 11.4 seconds remaining, Rush came in clutch. She took a trey from several feet beyond the arc, tying the game 79–79.
Neither side capitalized on the remaining seconds, and the matchup headed to overtime.
In the extra five minutes, the Bulldogs pulled ahead. They began with a seven-point run and never looked back. Despite Alarie’s best efforts — she scored all of Princeton’s seven overtime points — Yale claimed a 96–86 win.
And despite the dramatic finish, Coach Banghart maintained that the game was Yale’s from the start.
“They were the tougher team,” she said. “You give up 96 points and you think you’re going to win? You give their sixth man 18 and 11? She barely made our scout. You give up second-chance points, 15 for Yale, 2 for us? Those are tough stats. We just got out-toughed.”
But for Banghart, the Yale defeat has highlighted exactly what her team needs to do differently.
“We’ve got to play with more toughness and a little bit more fearlessness earlier in games,” she explained.
Princeton’s players will have a chance to take Banghart’s advice tonight at 5 p.m., when they will face Brown (9–12, 1–4) in Jadwin Gymnasium. The Bears are coming into the contest on a four-game losing streak. And for Alarie, the defeat serves as nothing if not motivation.
“[The loss] should definitely fuel us,” said Alarie. “We really need to turn around tomorrow and actually follow through with that. We need to get a win on our home floor during Ivy season. I think there’s a lot at stake.”