W. bball hopes for a spark at home

Looking for a change in fortune, the women’s basketball team hopes to gain enough morale from an enthusiastic home crowd this weekend to spur them on to their first win of the season.

Happy to be home, the Bulldogs (1-16, 0-4 Ivy) return to John J. Lee Amphitheater on Friday and Saturday to host Princeton (12-4, 3-0) and Penn (3-11, 1-2) after three consecutive weeks of away games. The Elis will strive to earn their first victory in Ivy League play after last week’s losses to Harvard and Dartmouth, 55-48 and 77-60, respectively.

On Friday, team Captain Chinenye Okafor ’07 reached her first double-double of the season with 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds against the Crimson. But the effort was not enough for a Bulldog victory, and Okafor, who is recovering from an ankle injury, is still limited in her game. Her most recent performance against Dartmouth — in which she scored only five points — showed that she is not yet up to par. Head coach Chris Gobrecht said Okafor’s injury will likely detract from her game this weekend.

“[Okafor] is struggling just to get in the game,” Gobrecht said. “We need our captain to be at full strength.”

The Big Green dominated the Bulldogs on Saturday, having notched double the Elis’ score at halftime with a 40-20 lead. The silver lining in the loss was the performance of guard Jamie van Horne ’09, who tied a career high of 17 points on 56.3 percent shooting from the floor. Van Horne has been performing very consistently, racking up nine points against Harvard last Friday and earning the Ivy League’s Rookie of the Week honor.

“I just got a lot of playing time on Saturday and scored,” Van Horne said. “We needed someone to shoot the ball and I was there.”

Guard Emily St. Jean ’09 also has been delivering solid performances, scoring a career-high seven points against Dartmouth.

“The freshmen are really playing well,” Gobrecht said. “They are improving a great deal. When you reach February, you’re not a freshman anymore and these girls are taking on a lot more responsibility.”

Gobrecht said she thinks the Elis are facing their toughest Ivy start, as they are playing the top half of the conference right off the bat. Princeton is currently the Ivy co-leader along with Dartmouth, while Yale does not have a single victory under its belt so far. The Tigers are on a six-game winning streak, having won all of their games with double digit margins of victory. They hold a 35-27 all-time record against Yale.

Princeton’s Meagan Cowher, last season’s Ivy League Rookie of the Year, has scored a combined 59 points in the Tigers’ last two games against Columbia and Cornell. Returning after a 19-day break for exams, the Tigers will look to continue their winning streak.

“They will be a formidable challenge,” Gobrecht said. “I feel like our team has the capabilities to beat anyone though. [The Tigers] play more of an open court game.”

The Bulldogs will also host Penn, which holds a 29-28 all-time record against Yale. The Quakers scored their first and only conference win this season on Jan. 14 against Columbia.

“Penn is also a very strong team. But there isn’t a big gap in our game,” Gobrecht said. “They are more dependent on their post players and play more of a half-court game.”

Van Horne said she hopes the team will show an improved performance on the court this weekend.

“We’re looking to learn from last week’s mistakes,” Van Horne said. “We just need to go out and play hard and play together.”

Gobrecht said the Bulldogs need to improve their overall game by starting better and keeping their passing and defense up.

“We’re getting better with every game,” Gobrecht said. “Anyone can win on any given night. We just need to bring our game together.”

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