After falling to the top two teams in the Ivy League — first-place Princeton and runner-up Penn — the Yale women’s basketball team will complete the last weekend of its regular season by facing Harvard on Friday night and Dartmouth on Saturday.
The games come on the heels of a tough run for the Bulldogs (12–14, 6–6 Ivy) — the team has lost six of its last seven games, and currently ranks fourth in the Ivy League.
“It’s an important weekend because not only is it our last weekend of [the] season, but we have the potential to get third place in the Ivy League, something we haven’t done in a couple of years,” guard Meg McIntyre ’17 said.
Additionally, Saturday’s game is senior night, when captain and lone senior Sarah Halejian ’15 — 10th on Yale’s all-time scoring list with 1,226 points — will be honored for her contributions to the team.
The Elis will face stiff competition this weekend. Tied for second place in the league, Harvard (12–14, 5–7) came away with two wins over Cornell and Columbia in Cambridge during the past weekend. Leading the team in scoring is 6’4” senior forward Temi Fagbenle, who averages 14.3 points per game, enough for sixth in the conference. Fagbenle was named to the All-Ivy first team last year and has earned 14 Ivy League weekly awards in her career.
Joining Fagbenle in double-digit scoring are fellow senior forward and co-captain Erin McDonnell and junior forward Annmarie Healy, averaging 13.2 and 12.9 points per game, respectively. As a team, the Crimson averages 64.6 points per game, six points more than the Bulldogs average.
In preparation for Friday’s game against Harvard, the Elis have made some offensive adjustments to how they will respond to the Crimson’s high zone, according to guard Nyasha Sarju ’16.
Yale has not defeated Harvard since February of 2011, when Yale upset Harvard twice with a win at home, 82–71, and on the road, 78–64.
“No one on this team has beaten Harvard yet so I think we’re really excited and determined for the weekend ahead,” McIntyre said.
The Big Green (13–13, 4–8) is at the bottom of the Ivy League and lost to Yale a month ago in Hanover, 83–65. Averaging 56.3 points per game, Dartmouth is the only Ivy team with a lower scoring average than Yale’s 58.6 points per game. However, its leading scorer, sophomore forward Fanni Szabo, ranks first in the Ivy League with an average of 16.9 points per game. Right behind her is junior forward Lakin Roland, who averages 12.3 points per contest and will likewise be an offensive threat.
In anticipation of this weekend, the Bulldogs have focused on sharpening their pressure defense, which has consistently been successful in limiting opponents’ scoring this season. The Elis rank first in the Ivy League in turnover margin at +3.46 per game.
“For both teams, we just want to pressure them as much as possible and dictate tempo,” Sarju said. “We want our defense to turn to transition scores and keep them from getting into their defensive sets.”
Senior night promises to be a special occasion for the team and for Halejian. Though the Wyckoff, New Jersey native has been sidelined since Yale’s contest against Oklahoma on Dec. 30, she has still put together one of the most illustrious careers in Yale history, having won Ivy Rookie of the Year in the 2011–12 season and being named to the All-Ivy first team each of the past two seasons.
The team looks forward to ending the season on a strong note, according to Tamara Simpson ’18.
“In practice this week, there has been a noticeable increase in intensity and focus as we work to clean up aspects of our offense and defense in preparation for these two tough teams,” Simpson said.
Tip-off is at 7 p.m. for both games.