Fresh off a win at Brown last weekend, the women’s basketball team (6–10, 1–1 Ivy) is hoping to improve its conference record this weekend.
The Bulldogs will host both Harvard and Dartmouth as they continue the pursuit of their first Ivy League title since 1979.
“Harvard definitely draws a bit more intensity and urgency out of us than a lot of the other games we play because of the ancient rivalry,” center Zenab Keita ’14 said. “We know they are another top contender for the number one spot.”
As the Bulldogs prepare for their back-to-back matchups, defensive efforts have been an area of focus. Junior Crimson guard Christine Clark, who is averaging 17.2 points per game, and teammate Victoria Lippert, who boasts an 89.2 percent free throw percentage, promise to test the Eli defense.
Dartmouth (3–13, 1–1) is coming off a recent 58–45 upset win at Harvard and is shooting 34.5 percent from the field, several points below the Bulldogs’ 39.0 percent average. The Big Green held the sharpshooting Harvard offense to just 1–19 from beyond arc and is sure to challenge the Eli shooters, who currently trail only Harvard (10–6, 1–1) with a 34.3 3-point percentage.
Despite its strong overall outside shooting this season, Yale will have to rely heavily on its inside game this weekend after a disappointing performance from the 3-point line last week. The Bulldogs shot 2–15 from outside the arc against Brown and will be looking to increase their 39 percent season field goal average this weekend.
Both Harvard and Dartmouth will pose a threat on the boards. The Crimson are second in the conference with 37.9 rebounds per game and the Big Green are in fourth with 36.8, while Yale has managed only 35.9 rebounds per game and sits in sixth place. The Bulldogs will look to their leading rebounders Meredith Boardman ’16 and Zenab Keita ’14, who each average over four rebounds per game.
“Rebounding is not our greatest strength so that is something we are continually working on,” guard Nyasha Sarju ’16 said. “We have to be able to defend both the drive and the shot this weekend and so that has been another point of emphasis during practice.”
Sarju said that the Elis have also focused on fast breaks in preparing for Harvard and Dartmouth. Last weekend against Brown, the Bulldogs managed only six fast break points, though they held the Bears to eight.
“We have been focusing on making sure we play our transition game and get out and run, both offensively and defensively,” Sarju said.
Yale has seen consistency over the season on the offensive end from guard Sarah Halejian ’15, who has scored in double figures in 15 of Yale’s last 16 games and leads the Bulldogs in scoring, averaging 13.9 points per game. Last weekend against Brown, Halejian recorded the first double-double of her career with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
The Elis are hoping to take their second conference victory, only having fallen to Brown by one point earlier this month, before getting revenge against the Bears a week later.
“We’ve been working on playing well under pressure,” Keita said. “Harvard just lost to Dartmouth, so they are fired up … with that type of intensity coming at us, we need to be able to handle them.”
The Bulldogs will take on Harvard this Friday at 7 p.m. at John J. Lee Amphitheater. They will continue conference play against Dartmouth this Saturday at 6 p.m.