The women’s basketball team begins Ivy League play with a home-and-home set against Brown this Friday in Providence.
The Bulldogs (6–8, 0–0 Ivy) are coming off a tough non-conference schedule that included games against Kansas and Miami, both of which made the NCAA tournament last season.
“The pre-season was a good growing experience for this team,” Head Coach Chris Gobrecht said. “The players try very hard to learn from every game and they got better.”
Guard Sarah Halejian ’15 concurred, saying that the team is up for the challenges ahead.
Brown (6–8, 0–0) has played a competitive schedule as well thus far, including games against some of the same teams. The Bears went 2–3 against Saint Peter’s, Bryant, Army, Maine and New Hampshire compared to Yale’s record of 3–2 against the same five teams.
The game will feature two of the Ivy League’s best three-point shooting teams, as Yale comes into the game having posted a 33.6 shoot percentage from beyond the arc. Brown is even more prolific from long range, shooting 39.3 percent on the season from the three-point arc — ninth-best in the country.
Brown also holds the edge in field goal percentage so far this season, shooting 39.3 percent from the field compared to the Bulldogs’ 37 percent. The Elis are scoring 66.2 points per game, whereas the Bears are averaging 65.3 points a game. The Bulldogs also have the advantage in total rebounds per game, 39.1 to 31.0. The two teams seem to be evenly matched on paper, and all signs point to a close game that will come down to the wire.
“We have rebounded the ball consistently well and will need to do so in order to give ourselves a chance to be successful in conference play,” Halejian said.
The Bulldogs will look to Halejian and captain and guard Janna Graf ’14 to lead the team. Halejian leads the team in scoring, averaging 15.6 points a game during the first half of the season. Graf paces the team in three-point shooting among players averaging a minimum of one three-point shot attempt per game. The captain is connecting on 42.6 percent of her shots from downtown so far this season and is averaging 10.4 points per game.
The Elis will need to contain the Bears’ leading scorer, guard Lauren Clarke, who is averaging 17.3 points a game. They will also need to account for Brown’s top three-point shooter, guard Sophie Bikofsky, who is shooting 51.6 percent from behind the arc. Halejian added that the Bulldogs will need to hound the Bears in order to keep them from running the floor for easy opportunities.
“For Brown on Friday, we will definitely need to slow down their transition offense,” Halejian said. “Other than that, we are looking to play our game, mainly by pressuring them on defense and pushing the ball hard for 40 minutes.”
This will be the 77th meeting between the two teams, with Brown holding the overall advantage 43–33. Yale and Brown split last season’s series, as the home team lost each contest. The Bears defeated the Bulldogs 68–67 in New Haven and the Elis topped Brown 59–47 in Providence.
Last season the Bulldogs finished fourth in the Ivy League, while the Bears finished seventh.
The two teams will face off again Jan. 24, this time at the John J. Lee Amphitheater in New Haven.