The Yale women’s basketball team is coming off a win to play its first conference game today in New Haven against Brown University.
The Bulldogs defeated Saint Peter’s 53–45 on the road this Tuesday, despite the absence of captain and leading scorer Sarah Halejian ’15, who is out due to a torn ACL. In the last non-conference game of the season, guard Tamara Simpson ’18 was crucial to the team, registering three steals and a total of 15 points in the game.
“Once we start Ivy League play, we don’t really care about what happened before,” head coach Chris Gobrecht said. “This is what matters for all of us.”
She added that this Ivy League season is the strongest it has ever been. Currently, the Ivy League is ranked as the 10th best conference out of the 33 in the nation according to the Rating Percentage Index, a metric used in college basketball to rank and judge teams. The league’s top team, Princeton, enters Ivy play with a perfect 17–0 mark, the first time an Ivy team has finished its non-conference play undefeated. The Tigers have climbed to No. 19 in the Associated Press poll, the highest ranking for any Ivy team in history.
Yale’s opponent this weekend, Brown, started off the season with a 5–8 record, closely matching Yale’s own mark of 6–8. The Bears will bring with them junior Jordin Alexander, who is the fourth-ranked scorer in the Ivy League, averaging 17.0 points per game. After defeating Morgan State on Sunday, Brown comes into the game on a three-game winning streak.
One of the Bears’ key additions this season, freshman forward Janie White, is the team’s third-leading scorer at 8.2 points per game. But her major contributions are on the defensive end, where she grabs 7.3 rebounds and blocks 1.2 shots per contest.
The Bulldogs, however, are confident and excited to begin playing other teams in the Ancient Eight.
“When conference play begins, everything turns up a notch,” guard Lena Munzer ’17 said. “The stakes are higher and we have some young players that have ice in their veins when it comes to games like these.”
Gobrecht sees the Elis’ offense as their main weakness at the moment. While Yale averages 62.2 points per game, sixth in the Ivy League, it ranks last in shooting percentage at 36.4 percent.
She added that the players needs to become better at seizing the opportunity to shoot when they get the chance. During the last game against Saint Peter’s, Yale’s shooting average was 33.9 percent.
Despite a weakened offense, Gobrecht explained that the Elis have a very solid defensive team, which works very hard and very well together. Additionally, the Bulldogs have been very resourceful in making up for Halejian’s absence. Two freshmen, Simpson and fellow guard Mary Ann Santucci ’18, have seen a significant increase in playing time. Simpson scored in double figures in each of the Bulldogs’ games without Halejian, while Santucci has been a major factor on defense, recording two steals in each of the last two games.
“I have faith that they will be successful on the court for the remainder of the season,” Halejian said.
The game against Brown tips off tonight at 7 p.m. in the John J. Lee Amphitheater.