If it works once, use it. And if it almost worked once, try it again. Playing at Hanover and Cambridge this weekend, the Yale women’s basketball team will stick to the game plan that nearly led to a sweep of Dartmouth and Harvard two weeks ago.
In their Friday rematch against the Big Green (14-8, 7-2 Ivy), the Bulldogs (5-18 , 2-8) will once again try to get the ball down low to wear down and foul out Dartmouth center Elise Morrison. The Elis will have a similar strategy Saturday at Harvard (12-10, 5-4), but instead of taking it to one big-time post player, they will have to go at two — Cantab forwards Hana Peltjo and Reka Cserny.
“We’re going to continue emphasizing getting the ball inside,” Yale head coach Amy Backus said. “Erica Davis [’07] and all of our post players did a great job attacking Harvard the first time around.”
Center Aubrey Smith ’04 came off the bench as one of four Eli frontcourt players brought in to maintain intensity and a varied style of play in the paint.
“We definitely made some strides in those games in making our all-around team defense better,” Smith said. “I see no reason that it shouldn’t continue [this weekend].”
In Yale’s 62-59 win over Harvard Feb. 14, its first Ivy League victory of the season, the Bulldogs drew four fouls on Peltjo, who is on pace for a third straight Ivy League Player of Year award. On Yale’s defensive end, a rotation of Eli post players came in to contain Peltjo and Cserny.
The night before the win over Harvard, the Bulldogs succeeded at neutralizing this year’s likely Ivy League Rookie of the Year, Morrison, but did not come up with a win. The Big Green big woman fouled out late in the second half and finished with a mediocre 12 points. But the Elis scored only 11 points in the second half to lose a 19-point halftime lead and the game.
It was the second time in a row that Yale had watched the unthinkable happen against Dartmouth. Last season, the Big Green came back from an 18-point halftime deficit to defeat the Bulldogs.
“That’s how it’s been with a lot of our games — but especially with Dartmouth,” Yale forward Linsday Page ’05 said. “Beating Princeton and Harvard and being ahead the whole game, and knowing we can do that with Dartmouth as well, we just have to keep that attacking attitude the entire game.”
This weekend, the Bulldogs can get revenge by undercutting Dartmouth’s chances for an Ancient Eight championship. The Big Green is one game behind first-place Pennsylvania, and with just four games to go, one loss could be the difference.
“We hope to be the spoiler,” Backus said. “We did that to Harvard [two weeks ago], and we’ll try to do that to Dartmouth.”
Yale’s Feb. 14 win gave the defending league champion Crimson a 3-4 losing record, practically destroying Harvard’s hopes for another title.
Besides the Cantabs’ taste for revenge, the Elis may also have to overcome their own late-season fatigue to pull out a season sweep of Harvard.
Last weekend, the Bulldogs won a grueling overtime game against Princeton, and barely kept up with the Quakers’ pace the next day in a 20-point blowout.
“We’re trying to save our legs this week,” Backus said. “We really felt as though some of our guards didn’t have the legs to keep up with Penn.”
Although the Elis are not playing for a championship, they still draw motivation at this point in the season from the need to make up for their 0-7 Ivy start.
“There’s even more motivation to finish strong,” Page said. “We’re playing the best we have all season, and want to make this weekend and next weekend our best.”