A 13–0 second half run for the Yale women’s basketball team, along with a massive rebounding advantage, helped the Bulldogs take down the Holy Cross Crusaders 83–70 in their home opener on Tuesday.
Save for a three-minute span midway through the second half, the Elis held a lead throughout the entire game. While Yale shot 40 percent from the field, the Elis shot 80 percent from the free throw line. Forwards Jen Berkowitz ’18 and Katie Werner ’17 led the Bulldog scoring effort with 16 points each.
“As a team, we were very active rebounding,” Werner said. “That gave us more scoring chances that helped us win the game.”
Berkowitz led the Bulldogs on the boards, adding 11 rebounds to complete her first collegiate double-double in her second career game. She led a strong group of Yale players off the bench, as the Elis’ bench unit combined for 38 points and an impressive 21 rebounds.
Berkowitz’s rebounding efforts, along with the rest of the team’s, played a large role in Yale’s victory. The Bulldogs had more offensive rebounds, with 27, than Holy Cross did total, with 26. They also out-rebounded the Crusaders 51–26, leading to 50 points in the paint. That total was larger than any number that the Elis put up in the 2013–14 season.
The Bulldogs converted these opportunities into buckets, registering 24 second-chance points in the game compared to the Crusaders’ four. After shooting a combined 4–15 from the field in Yale’s season opener, the freshman class turned it around, as Berkowitz and guards Tamara Simpson ’18 and Mary Ann Santucci ’18 combined for 31 points and 18 rebounds on 12–22 shooting.
“The freshmen showed us [on Tuesday] just how valuable they are to this team,” guard Nyasha Sarju ’16 said. “They are fearless, hard working and they are just flat-out talented. Yesterday, they remained poised and were one of, if not the biggest reason why we pulled so far ahead of Holy Cross.”
The team had four players score in double figures against Holy Cross, an improvement from its previous game against St. John’s, where just one player scored more than 10 points. The Bulldogs’ defense also forced the Crusaders to commit 18 turnovers, while allowing the Yale lead to stretch as high as 17 points in the late second half.
Yale also forced mistakes by drawing fouls and taking trips to the charity stripe. The team drew 22 fouls and scored 20 points from the free throw line. On the other end, meanwhile, the Bulldogs were able to stay out of foul trouble for the most part, with no player receiving more than three. Holy Cross made just five of its nine attempts from the line.
Captain Sarah Halejian ’15 went a perfect six-for-six from the stripe and totaled six assists and four steals as well. When asked about the younger players around her, she praised their performances and was optimistic for the future.
“My teammates have made my job easy,” Halejian said. “We have had solid contributions from multiple different members throughout our first two games, which will be key to our success as the year goes on.”
The Bulldogs will be spending their Thanksgiving break traveling across the country, starting with a game in Seattle at the University of Washington on Sunday.
The contest will serve as a homecoming for two players from Seattle — Santucci and Sarju. Additionally, head coach Chris Gobrecht coached at Washington for 11 years, leading the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament in nine of them.
“It’s such a special and exciting trip, and we get to play some close friends of both [Santucci] and myself,” Sarju said. “I know it is many [of my teammates’] first time to Seattle, so I am excited for my best friends to see where I’m from.”
After that game, Yale travels to the northernmost state where it will face Alaska Anchorage on Tuesday, Nov. 25. The following day, the Elis will play either Boise State or Long Beach State, depending on the results of Tuesday’s games.
Guard Claire Mokri ’18 said that she is looking forward to playing good team basketball and winning games while enjoying the beauty of the West Coast.
Halejian said she hopes for success in Alaska.
“I have been focusing on keeping the team confident and poised on the court when things are not going our way or our opponent is making a run against us,” Halejian said.
The Bulldogs will look to improve their accuracy from the field, as they are shooting just 36.6 percent through their first two games.
Sunday’s game tips off at 10:30 p.m. Eastern time.