Opening league play, Elis look to a ‘new season’

While the first half of the Elis’ season amply demonstrated their shortcomings, the women’s basketball team is hoping the second half will showcase its strengths.

A combination of turnovers, difficult competition and offensive struggles have prevented the Bulldogs (3-11) from posting many wins so far this season, but the Elis have racked up some impressive statistics and are anticipating an extremely successful Ivy League season.

“We haven’t taken any steps backwards. We’re still building up, and working out those kinks so we can have a game where there aren’t so many lulls and so many dull points,” center Erica Davis ’07 said. “The season is barely half over, and I feel like every game we’re learning something, every game we’re making progress.”

Yale averages 24.9 turnovers per game, nearly 10 more than its opponents. The Elis have posted 30 or more turnovers in four games this season. The Bulldogs have had only one matchup, a 46-45 win against Delaware State, in which they recorded fewer than 15 turnovers.

“Turnovers are still a debilitating factor to our game,” forward Lindsay Page ’05 said. “And we are hurting ourselves with inconsistencies and short lags in the second half, allowing teams to keep a lead on us.”

The Elis have dropped matches to many strong opponents, including a 80-43 trouncing by nationally-ranked No. 9 Ohio State in the Wonder/Hostess Buckeye Classic. Also among Yale’s tough competition were Syracuse University, a Big East title contender, and George Washington University.

“We played a lot of really big name teams like Ohio State and Alabama, and even GW, so while our record suffered, it was a great way to prepare for the Ivy season,” center Sarah Zoubek ’08 said. “The Ivy girls will seem like softies compared to some of the aggressive and athletic players we’ve been pitted against.”

The first of Yale’s three wins came against Morgan State Dec. 20. The Elis downed Morgan State 79-70, and four Yale players recorded double digits in points during the game. Guard Tory Mauseth ’05 led the team with 22 points, while Davis (18), forward Chinenye Okafor ’07 (16), and Page (12) bolstered the offensive effort. The Elis boasted a 43.8 field goal percentage, and sank over 30 percent of their shots from behind the arc.

Captain Morgan Richards ’05 led the Bulldogs to their second win this season, a 57-43 victory over Lafayette Jan. 5. Richards was 3-for-4 from behind the arc, and was perfect from the line, sinking all six of her free throws. As a team, the Elis shot above 40 percent from the floor and from three-point range, and knocked down over 80 percent of their free throws.

Most recently, the Elis scraped by Delaware State, 46-45. Mauseth led the Bulldogs with 13 points, and Davis followed close behind with 11 points and eight rebounds. The win extended Yale’s home winning streak to three games — the Elis have not lost on their home court since Dec. 1.

According to Davis, one of the Elis’ major assets has been their ability to coalesce on and off the floor.

“We have great chemistry and we’ve been learning how we all operate and what combinations look best on the court,” Davis said. “We’ve been really getting along on and off the court and that’s proven to be one of our strongest attributes.”

Davis has come up big for the Elis this season. Last season’s Ivy League Rookie of the Year, she has continued to develop into an exceptional player, and a major contributor to the success of this year’s team. She leads the team in field goals (67), field goal percentage (.424), points (181), rebounds (103), blocks (32), and steals (24).

Despite a dismal record and mediocre performances so far this season, the Elis appear to be in solid shape to perform well against Ivy opponents. A preseason poll put the Bulldogs in the fifth-place spot behind Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, and Brown.

“We’re looking forward to the Ivy League because once the league starts, none of the other games matter,” Mauseth said before Yale’s 65-39 loss to Brown in its Ivy opener. “No one’s record matters because we’ve all played different teams. Everyone’s 0-0 as far as we’re concerned. We’re excited to play teams we’re familiar with and to have a more consistent practice and game schedule.”

Yale has also earned top spots in the rebounding and defensive Ivy League statistics. The team is second for offensive rebounds, averaging 12.64 per game, and in defensive rebounds, with 26.00 per game. The Bulldogs are also first in the conference for blocked shots, with 43 on the season.

“We’ve been really committed to our defense,” Davis said. “We’ve done well holding teams below their percent averages and getting crucial stops and holding onto games when our offense might have been lagging.”

Several individual Elis are building reputations as top Ivy League players. Davis is ranked sixth in points per game (12.9) and eighth in shooting percentage (.424). Mauseth’s 10.4 points per game is good enough for 14th in the Ivies and she is third in the league in three-pointers this season, with 26. In addition, Davis and Okafor are fourth and 19th respectively in rebounding. Davis leads the blocked shots category, and Okafor leads the conference in offensive rebounds with 38.

“In my three years with the program, this is the most talented team that I have played with,” Page said. “Our underclassmen are exceptional athletes and I am proud to play with each one of them. The freshmen have learned what it takes to play at this level, and the sophomores have developed into crucial contributors on the team.”

The key for Yale will be converting so much individual talent, and the moments of team brilliance, into a consistently effective unit, Page said.

“Our challenge in our non-conference games and into the Ivy season is to find a way to put all of the parts together, because when we click as a team, I believe we are unstoppable,” she said.

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