Despite a loss to Harvard last weekend to snap a seven-game winning streak, the Yale women’s basketball team still retains the number two spot in the conference. But the Bulldogs have a tough task ahead of them this weekend, as they welcome undefeated Princeton and fourth place Penn to John J. Lee Amphitheater.
Even with a game-high 14 points from guard Nyasha Sarju ’16 and forcing 23 total turnovers, the Bulldogs (11–9, 5–1 Ivy) lost to the Crimson 65–55 in Lavietes Pavilion. Prior to the loss, the Elis stood 5–0 in the Ivy League, the team’s best start since the 1979–80 season when the team held a 7–0 conference record.
“We are looking to bounce back this weekend,” guard Lena Munzer ’17 said. “We know we have two tough teams coming here, but we just need to focus on our game and doing the right thing. During conference [play], it’s easy to get caught up in who we’re playing, but it’s important that we put the focus on us and what we can do to get better.”
In the contest against Harvard, the Bulldogs were also hampered by a major free-throw disparity. Yale got to the charity stripe just nine times — making only four of those attempts — while Harvard had 23 foul shots.
Even after the loss, however, Yale remains optimistic in no small part due to its record in New Haven. The team has a 7–1 record playing in front of the home crowd at John J. Lee Amphitheater and just a 4–8 mark in other venues.
“We have been pretty good at home so we hope that continues,” head coach Chris Gobrecht said.
Guard Tamara Simpson ’18 has been especially good in Ivy play for the Bulldogs, averaging 11.5 points per game and leading all active Yale scorers. Following Simpson are guards Whitney Wyckoff ’16 and Sarju, who average 9.8 and 9.3 points per game, respectively, in conference play.
Friday’s opponent, Penn (12–7, 3–2), defeated Columbia but lost to Cornell at home last weekend. The Quakers, who won the Ivy League title a year ago, currently average 59.7 points and 14.9 turnovers per game, just slightly higher than the Bulldogs’ average of 14.4 turnovers per game.
Averaging 10.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, sophomore center Sydney Stipanovich leads the team in both categories and ranks sixth in the Ivy League in total rebounds. Senior guard Kathleen Roche will likewise be an offensive threat, as she is second on the squad with an average of 9.6 points per game.
The Bulldogs will then play No. 16 Princeton (21–0, 5–0) the following day. Although back-to-back games are standard in the Ivy League, this is only the second time that the team’s freshmen will have experienced this.
While Penn is a good team, holding a winning record in Ivy play, Princeton is one of the best teams in the country. Predicted to finish first in the Ivy League, Princeton is the only undefeated team left in Division I women’s basketball. It boasts the league-best offense at 78.6 points per game — 12.5 points more than second-place Brown — and the league-best defense, allowing just 52.0 points per contest.
Of Princeton’s five conference victories, all have been by at least 18 points, most notably a 96–46 shellacking of Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Tigers have four players who average 9.6 points or more, led by senior guard Blake Dietrick’s 15 points per game and junior guard Michelle Miller’s 12.6 points per game.
Yale’s pressure defense has been crucial in the Bulldogs’ recent performances. In their last game against Harvard, the Elis caused 23 turnovers and picked up 12 steals, four of which came from center Emmy Allen ’16. However, the Bulldogs fell victim to Harvard’s Erin McDonnell, who scored a season-high 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting from behind the three point line. In comparison, Yale was only 5-of-21, or 23.8 percent, from long range.
In anticipation of this weekend’s games, team has been practicing its offense to target Princeton and Penn specifically, according to Simpson.
“Losing to Harvard last weekend was definitely devastating for us, and coming into practice this week, we are really working on cleaning up some areas of our offense to ensure we can execute against Princeton and Penn effectively,” Simpson said.
Simpson added that the team is looking forward to playing at home again, especially against two major competitors.
This Saturday’s game against the Tigers will be Yale’s annual “Pink Night and Youth Day” celebration, and all proceeds from ticket sales go to the Smilow Cancer Hospital in New Haven. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. for both games.