Like their male counterpart, the Yale women’s basketball team got its Ivy League season off to a rough start with two losses to a pesky Brown squad. But while the Eli men get a chance to turn things around at home this weekend, the Bulldog women have the unenviable task of taking on Pennsylvania and Princeton on the road.
Although the Quakers (7-6, 1-0 Ivy) and Tigers (3-11, 0-1) are usually tough to beat on their home floors, Yale (3-12, 0-2) is optimistic about its chances in light of four close games against the Killer P’s last season.
“In the past, we’ve played really well against [Pennsylvania and Princeton],” guard Tory Mauseth ’05 said.
Last season at the John J. Lee Amphitheater, the Bulldogs lost to the Quakers 71-65 in overtime and fell to the Tigers the next day 94-92 in triple overtime. Although the Elis had an equally close loss at Princeton on Feb. 28, they came back with a 75-63 victory at the Palestra on March 1.
Yale head coach Amy Backus hopes to repeat that result in Philadelphia this Friday.
“Our team always plays really well when we go down to Penn,” Backus said. “We’ve got a great opportunity to even out our Ivy record.”
But the Quakers have started off 4-0 at their historic home court and boast the conference’s second leading scorer. Two-time first team All-Ivy forward Jewel Clark is averaging 20.7 points per game and could give the Eli defense the type of problems it had with Brown’s talented forward Nyeema Mitchell.
“[Clark] does present some interesting matchups,” Backus said. “She plays the ‘four’ [the power forward position] for them, but Julie Cohen [’04] did a great job guarding her last year.”
Cohen, a 5-foot-8-inch guard, will have to maintain her intensity and control to contain the 5-foot-10-inch Clark once again. In the last three games, Cohen has averaged more than 30 minutes of playing time and 10.7 points per game.
But several starters may be able to spend a few more minutes on the bench with Bonnie Smith ’04 returning to full health from a thigh contusion. After easing back into the lineup since late December, the 2002-03 All-Ivy honorable mention saw 29 minutes of playing time in last Saturday’s 75-58 loss at Brown.
“Bonnie [Smith]’s definitely a person that needs to be on the floor,” Backus said. “She just brings a real toughness to the court that maybe we don’t have in a lot of people.”
And Smith’s recovery is especially timely in light of this weekend’s matchups. In last season’s away games at Princeton and Pennsylvania, Smith averaged 25.5 points per game.
In addition, the Bulldog offense will need a more balanced attack as Ivy League opponents crack down on guard Tory Mauseth ’05. Shooting 31-of-65 from 3-point range for the season, Mauseth ranks sixth in the nation in shooting percentage from beyond the arc with a scintillating 47.7 percent.
But after the Bears held her to zero-of-three from downtown last Saturday, the coaching staff is working on new ways to get her good looks.
“At Brown, I was being face-guarded, which made it difficult to even catch the ball,” Mauseth said. “Now we’re also working on a lot of backdoor plays and options — We’ve been making adjustments.”
Besides improving their own shot selection, forward Lindsay Page ’05 said that getting out on the Quakers’ sharpshooters will be key.
“Penn has a very good transition game and a lot of strong 3-point shooters,” Page said. “We’re working on getting back on defense and getting on those shooters right away.”
Although the Yale women should have a much easier time with Princeton than Yale’s men’s team, they do not discount the Tigers as an easy opponent.
“Princeton is always a scrappy and physical team,” Page said.
Two of Princeton’s four league victories last season came against Yale, helping it edge out the Bulldogs by one win to tie for fifth place. Last season, there were three-way ties for fifth place and second place, and competition is expected to be equally tight this season.
“The Ivy League is so balanced as it is — Dartmouth beat [preseason league #1] Harvard earlier this year,” Mauseth said. “Because everyone is so even, every night will be a hard game.”
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