The Bulldogs will face their biggest test of the young Ivy League season this weekend. After edging out a win against Columbia and then getting blown off the court by Cornell last weekend, Yale (9-9, 2-2 Ivy) will face its toughest conference foes yet with games against Harvard (10-7, 2-1) and Dartmouth (8-9, 3-0) this weekend at home.
The marquis match-up, as always, will be in a YES televised game against the Crimson on Friday night at 7 p.m. As the preseason favorite to win the Ivy League, the Cantabs seem to be clicking on all cylinders after sweeping Penn and Princeton last week. Senior Emily Tay averaged 18 points and 5.5 assists en route to grabbing Ivy League Co-Player of the Week honors. But Tay isn’t even the Crimson’s highest scorer — that honor goes to Emma Marley, who is averaging 13.4 points and 6.9 rebounds a game.
Meanwhile, Brogan Berry, Ivy League Rookie of the Week on five occasions this season, is the third Harvard player to average double figures and Niki Finelli currently leads the Ivy League with a .403 three-point field goal percentage. Containing the inside-outside attack of Harvard will be a great challenge for the Bulldogs on defense.
Even scarier than Harvard’s balanced and efficient attack is the team that beat them: Dartmouth. Picked to finish second in the Ancient Eight, the Big Green go into this weekend undefeated in conference play and also pulled off a sweep Princeton and Penn last week. Dartmouth also has its own inside-outside threat with leading scorer Brittney Smith (who is averaging 14.1 points and 8.1 rebounds a game) and Koren Schram (who has nailed 37 three-pointers this season while averaging 12.1 points per game).
Against two top-tier Ivy League opponents who play such similar styles, winning games will take an intense commitment to defense. As any basketball fan will tell you, defense is all about hard work and hustle. The toughest test for the Elis this weekend will not be a test of skill and talent, but rather a test of character and effort — two attributes that were sorely lacking in last week’s blowout loss to Cornell.
“This team has a hard time moving outside of what their state of mind is and has trouble finding the joy of playing with effort,” head coach Chris Gobrecht said after that loss. “Whether you think you’re going to win or think you’re going to lose, it’s just a lot more fun to play with a lot of effort.”
Asking for two wins against such tough opponents might be asking for too much. But asking for a good effort shouldn’t be a stretch.