Before Saturday’s game against the Brown Bears, head coach Amy Backus told the women’s basketball team that she wanted a rout. Her players answered the challenge.
In its Ivy League home opener, Yale (9-7, 2-1 Ivy) defeated Brown (3-13, 0-3 Ivy) by 19 points. Five Bulldogs finished the 79-60 victory in double-digit scoring, led by a career-high 16 points from Caitlin Bair ’02.
“We just felt it all week in practice,” Backus said. “[The players] were excited to play at home. They only had one game to play and they could bring a lot of energy to the table.”
While the two teams battled evenly for much of the first half, a 7-0 Eli run with just over three minutes to play in the period put the Bulldogs up by seven. Two 3-pointers by Bair and Tory Mauseth ’05 enabled Yale to take a 38-29 lead into halftime.
“Yale really kept control of the ball and made good decisions attacking the basket,” said Brown head coach Jean Marie Burr. “[We should have] played 30 seconds of defense [on each possession]. Yale was able to find the gaps too easily.”
The Bulldogs then dominated second-half play, never letting the Bears come within less than seven points. The Elis often stepped up their defense with a full-court press, and after allowing Brown’s Rada Pavichevich to score 15 first half points, Yale held her to just four field goal attempts in the second half. Pavichevich finished with a game-high 23 points.
Yale tried to exploit Brown’s lack of depth throughout the game by pushing the ball in transition and keeping an up-tempo offense. The Bears had only six players who logged more than 15 minutes on the court.
“We wanted to establish a tempo,” Backus said. “We knew that they didn’t go very deep, and they hung on a little longer than we thought they would.”
Helene Schutrumpf ’03, Christina Phillips ’04, Lindsay Page ’05, Mauseth and Bair combined for 65 out of the Bulldogs’ 79 points in the winning effort. Yale shot 43.9 percent from the field, led by Bair’s 5-6 from the field, 5-6 from the free-throw line, and 1-1 from 3-point range.
“Bair doesn’t always look for her shot; she’s really a defensive specialist,” Backus said.
Bair and Schutrumpf also tallied five steals each in the game. Often, Schutrumpf seemed to be able to cover the entire court herself.
“Whenever Helene comes out and is all over the court it really feeds our team,” Bair said.
Yale was also particularly strong from the 3-point line. In the first half, the team went 5-10 from behind the arc, and the Elis finished the game with a 38.9 3-point field goal percentage. Backus was impressed with her team’s ability find the open man and elude the defense on the perimeter.
“We work very hard on using the whole floor,” Backus said. “We want to make teams play defense on us. You’ve got to make the defense move and you’ve got to reverse the basketball.”
Yale’s victory was also sweet revenge for two losses at the hands of the Bears last season. The Bulldogs are now tied for fourth place in the Ancient Eight.
The Ivy League home opener was part of a Yale basketball doubleheader. The women’s team is 4-0 when playing at home the same day as the men’s team. The Bulldogs showcased their skills in front of their largest crowd at the John. J. Lee Amphitheater this season.
“Every game we try to get really psyched,” Bair said. “When you do well and it’s magnified by the crowd, our intensity is then magnified by that.”
The Elis next travel to Providence for a rematch of Saturday’s game. The Jan. 26 meeting will also be a part of a doubleheader, with the men’s teams squaring off immediately following the women’s game.