As musician Bryan Adams would say, “So far, so good” for the women’s basketball team as it continues toward its goal of an Ivy League championship.
The Bulldogs (4-11, 2-0 Ivy) rebounded from last Tuesday night’s non-conference loss at Massachusetts with a resounding blowout victory against Brown (1-15, 0-2 Ivy), 72-49, on Saturday night at the John J. Lee Amphitheater. The 23-point win marked the Elis’ largest margin of victory so far this season, allowing all available Bulldogs a chance to get into the game. Leading the way was guard Jamie Van Horne ’09, who poured in a career-high 22 points on six of nine three-point attempts.
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The Elis are now tied for first place in the Ivy League with Princeton.
The previous game against Brown a week prior was an ugly matchup in which the Bulldogs shot 24.1 percent from the field and seemingly dared the Bears, a team with only a single win under its belt, to defeat them. The Elis recovered in the second half from the double-digit deficit, pulling out the seven-point road victory, 52-45.
However, no such drama was to be found Saturday night. Van Horne began the game with a three pointer from the top of the key only seven seconds into the game, setting a example for the rest of the team and indicating that its previous shooting struggles against Brown were part of the past. Van Horne herself was 0-7 on three-pointers in that game, demonstrating how different any given night can be.
“We knew we weren’t going to continue shooting that poorly,” guard Ashley Easley ’09 said. “We got some shots up this week at practice, got our confidence back up and shot good shots.”
The game was close in the opening minutes of the first half, until the Bears finally buckled under the Elis’ pressure defense. With the game set at 15-14 in favor of the home team at the 10:16 mark, the Bulldogs finished the half on a 20-9 run that was ignited by a couple of three-pointers and a drawn charge by Van Horne, a play which brought the bench to its feet. The Eli defense overall forced the Bears into 25 turnovers for the game, keeping the Brown offense out of sync.
“It has taken us a while to really nail the pressure-defense concept,” guard Katelynn Clement ’11 said. “It seems like we are finally in a good position to put all the pieces together, and it showed last night against Brown.”
The second half saw the Bulldogs put the game away early, making sure that the Bears would not return the favor with their own road comeback victory. In only a little over three-and-a-half minutes, the Elis extended their 12-point halftime lead into a 23-point margin. Van Horne was again instrumental in this offensive explosion, adding two more three-pointers.
“Jamie’s confidence shooting the ball is infectious,” Clement said. “Every time she nails a three, it gives the whole team a shot of energy.”
Several players said Van Horne’s threat for the three-point shot opens up opportunities for the rest of the team, since the opponent must always keep an eye on where Van Horne is on the court.
“Jamie’s three-point ability opens up the paint,” Easley said. “Defenders have to decide whether to pull off of her or not, and when a defender does pull of, Jamie makes her pay.”
Besides the improved shooting, team members pointed to better communication on the court and a renewed focus on keeping an up-tempo pace as factors that contributed to the blowout victory. While the last game against Brown saw a low-scoring struggle between the two Ancient Eight opponents, the Bulldog offense finally seemed to get back into the groove Saturday.
“Transition is a big part of our offense, and in our last game, we are really focused on pushing the ball and utilizing this strength,” forward Melissa Colborne ’10 said.
Saturday’s game was also notable for the return of captain and guard Stephanie Marciano ’08, who missed the previous game while nursing a rib injury. While Marciano took some hard falls that caused her to grimace in pain, she persevered, finishing with seven points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, their march toward an Ivy League title goes back on the road for the next four games. While the Bulldogs broke through with their first Ancient Eight road win in almost three years on Jan. 19, the true test of how far Yale basketball has come only lies ahead. It remains to be seen whether the Bulldogs can continue their two-game Ivy League winning streak against Columbia and Cornell this weekend.
“The momentum is great, but we really have to focus on these two teams on the road,” Easley said. “It’s our first back-to-back set of road games this season, and it is going to be tough.”