Difficult schedule leaves Bulldogs winless

While their peers stuffed themselves on turkey and candied yams over Thanksgiving break, members of the women’s basketball team continued to heighten their offensive prowess during a trio of tough road losses.

The Bulldogs fell to No. 14 Arizona State (3-2), 84-38, before heading farther west to participate in the Hilton Concord Thanksgiving Classic, where they suffered defeats to Saint Mary’s (4-2), 85-70, and Cal State-Bakersfield (3-3), 90-85. With the defeats, the Elis dropped to 0-4 on the season.

Arizona State center Kirsten Thompson maintains control of the ball as Yale guard Ashley Easley ’09 attempts a steal in the 84-38 Eli loss.
Paul Connors
Arizona State center Kirsten Thompson maintains control of the ball as Yale guard Ashley Easley ’09 attempts a steal in the 84-38 Eli loss.

The first stop on the Bulldogs’ road trip was Tempe, Ariz., where the home of the Sun Devils features an intimidating 14,198-seat stadium.

“They had some crazy fans, but I don’t think it affected us,” guard Yoyo Greenfield ’11 said. “They weren’t as talented [as Stanford], but [they] played with more intensity and hustle.”

The ruckus crowd fueled an Arizona State explosion to start the game, as the Sun Devils went on a 34-2 run in the first half to break the game open.

Although the game ended up being a blowout like the team’s last game — a 100-44 loss to Stanford — the Bulldogs improved their play in ways that the final score did not necessarily reflect.

“Defensively, we surprised [Arizona State] by getting in their face and causing a lot of turnovers,” Lindsay Williams ’11 said. “We were not afraid to take risks.”

The Elis next made their way to Moraga, Calif. to play in a four-team tournament featuring Yale, Saint Mary’s, Cal State-Bakersfield and Boise State (3-2). The Bulldogs drew a bum assignment, facing off against host Saint Mary’s in yet another game in unfavorable crowd conditions.

Like Stanford and Arizona State before them, Saint Mary’s came out firing against the Elis, mounting a 13-0 lead after just over two minutes. The Bulldogs relied on their previous experience facing large deficits, however, and fought their way back to a 28-22 margin with 8:36 left to play in the half.

“We came out with a lot of intensity and started pushing the ball,” Greenfield said. “They couldn’t keep up with our transition game.”

The host Gaels responded to the Bulldogs’ comeback with a run of their own and comfortably held the lead the rest of the way. Saint Mary’s was led by forward Lauren Shaughnessy’s 26 points. Forward Melissa Colborne ’10 led the Elis with 27 points in a strong performance that helped her earn a spot on the all-tournament team.

The Elis then faced Cal State-Bakersfield in the consolation game. The high-scoring affair was the closest game yet this season, although the Bulldogs lost, 90-85.

“Defensively, we were very slow in the game adapting to their style of play instead of our own faster, pressure defense,” Ashley Cater ’10 said.

But the Elis appeared to make improvements each game as readied for Ivy League play. The Bulldogs improved on field-goal and free-throw shooting each game during the road trip. The team’s free-throw shooting jumped from 62 percent in the first game of the trip to 81 percent in the final game.

The new, up-tempo offense — which scored 70 and 85 points in the last two games, respectively — also appears to be improving. At its current pace, Yale would be a top-20 scoring offense for all of women’s college basketball based on last season’s final statistics.

“We are really embracing the style and enjoying playing at the faster pace,” Carter said. “We just need to get our defense set to go with the offense and we’ll be good.”

Helping the transition has been the strong play from freshman additions Williams, Greenfield and Mady Gobrecht ’11.

“We were recruited to come in and play a fast, up-tempo game,” Williams said.

The Bulldogs have encountered trouble with turnovers with the faster play. The Elis had 32 and 27 turnovers against Saint Mary’s and Cal State-Bakersfield, respectively, negating the effectiveness of the easy fast-break points by surrendering easy baskets to their opponents off turnovers.

“Our style will come with turnovers because we shoot so quick in the shot clock, but we still need to take better care of the ball and trust our teammates more,” Greenfield said.

On Thursday the Bulldogs play at Marist, where they hope to repeat last year’s upset of the two-time defending MAAC champions. Marist made it to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen last year, and the Yale women said the contest will likely be another tough test for their developing squad.

“We definitely have a good shot at beating Marist,” Williams said. “If we can come together, play solid defense, and hit the boards, we should be fine.”

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