With six games left, the women’s basketball team finds itself in an unenviable position: win every game or finish below .500 in the Ivy League.
This weekend, the Elis (4-17, 1-7 Ivy) have a chance to climb from the conference basement on the road against fellow Ivy League cellar-dwellers Cornell (7-14, 1-7) and Columbia (10-11, 3-5). The Bulldogs’ lone league win came Jan. 31 in a 61-58 victory over the Lions in the John J. Lee Amphitheater.
The next day, Yale fell to Cornell 80-70 in the first season meeting of the two programs.
On the heels of a devastating pair of home overtime losses to the University of Pennsylvania (10-10, 4-3) and Princeton (8-13, 3-4), the Elis have to convince themselves each game is still worth playing.
“We know that we can compete with these teams,” said Christina Phillips ’04, who set a career-high with 28 points in the Princeton loss. “Penn and Princeton were basically one or two possessions better than us. In the beginning of the games, we shouldn’t have gotten down as much, but at the end we were doing what we needed to do at the moment.”
In Yale’s first season meeting against the Big Red, the Bulldogs only dressed nine players due to injuries. After one more injury and three players fouling out, the team had only five players on the court and lost steam. With a much healthier squad, the Elis seem prepared to notch their second league win.
“We’re taking things one game at a time, but we’re going in with a lot more confidence in our abilities and in the determination and relentlessness we can play with on the court,” Lindsay Page ’05 said. “I am, and I know the team is, proud of our performances over the weekend even though the outcome was two losses.”
If the Bulldogs are to replicate their victory over the Lions, which gave head coach Amy Backus 198 career wins, the Elis have to win the battle of the boards. Columbia leads the Ivy League with a plus-4.5 rebounding edge; the Bulldogs rank second with a plus-2.5 edge. In their first season meeting, Yale neutralized Columbia on the glass 37-35.
One player who has been integral all season but has recently become an all-around star is Morgan Richards ’05. In earning Ivy League Honor Roll status over the weekend, Richards averaged a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. She leads the team in assists and steals and is second in rebounds from her guard position.
“Morgan came up big,” Backus said, referring to Richards’ performance against Princeton, in which she pulled down 16 rebounds to go along with 16 points. “She really tried to take over in the overtimes, and she made some big buckets.”
Even with the recent pratfalls, the Bulldogs have managed to stay upbeat.
“It’s been pretty positive,” Phillips said. “We know we’re struggling. We need a win, but we’ve been doing good things on the court. The focus is our defense, stopping the other team’s best players. If we do that, our offense will come. That’s what will win games for us.”