The Yale women’s basketball team dominated on Sunday with a 78–60 win over Wagner, scoring its second-most points in a game this season despite the absence of its leading scorer.
With guard Nyasha Sarju ’16 out with a sprained ankle, the Elis (6–4, 0–0 Ivy) showed no ill effects in a dynamic 27-point first quarter against the Seahawks (1–5, 0–0 Northeast). Yale built a 10-point lead in the quarter that stayed steady into the fourth, when guard Tamara Simpson ’18 scored 13 of her career-high 22 points to carry the Bulldogs to victory.
“The goal from the start was to focus on ourselves and play ‘Bulldog Basketball,’ which involves defensive intensity creating our offense, running and scoring in transition and playing great transition defense,” captain and guard Whitney Wyckoff ’16 said. “We did that mostly in the first and last quarters.”
Yale hit five of its first six shots from the floor and all five Yale starters scored within the first five minutes of the first quarter. Forward Katie Werner ’17 led the Bulldogs with eight points in the period, while Simpson had three of her five steals on the day en route to building the Bulldog advantage.
In the second quarter, the pace of play slowed as the teams each put up 13 points entering the halftime break. While Yale saw four players score at least seven points in the first 20 minutes, Wagner guard Jasmine Nwajei scored 17 of her team’s 30 first-half points.
Following the intermission, Yale and Wagner once again had an even quarter of play, with each team scoring 16 points. While Nwajei continued her scoring outburst, with eight in the period off a variety of one-on-one moves and difficult jump shots, Yale forward Jen Berkowitz ’18 dominated down low to score nine points. Yale was out-rebounded 12–7 in the quarter, but the Bulldogs made up for it in turnovers, committing just two to the Seahawks’ six.
During the final 10 minutes of the game, Yale thwarted any hope of a Wagner comeback. Along with Simpson’s double-digit period, which consisted of a pair of back-to-back three-point shots and five sunken free throws, the team was able to dominate the boards by out-rebounding Wagner 12–5.
“In the first half, we were letting them penetrate, but we got our defense back in the second half,” guard Mary Ann Santucci ’18 said.
With Sarju and her team-leading 16.7 points per game missing from the contest due to the injury she suffered in Yale’s Dec. 3 65–61 loss to Army, four Yale starters scored in double figures. Sarju said she is planning on returning for the Elis’ game on Wednesday against St. John’s.
After Simpson’s career-best scoring effort, Berkowitz and Werner each added season highs, with 16 and 13 points, respectively. Wyckoff also contributed 12 points as well as 11 rebounds, matching a career high, to collectively carry the Bulldogs.
“We shared the ball really well tonight by working the high-low and moving the ball around the rim,” Werner said. “We had a lot of inside-out touches that led us to find good shots in our offense.”
In addition to creating open offensive opportunities, Yale reduced its season turnover rate of 18 per game by committing 15. More significantly, the Bulldogs forced 22 turnovers and translated those free passes into 36 points.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs were also proficient in getting to the free-throw line, taking 27 attempts from the charity stripe. However, Yale only converted 13 of those. However, Yale made up for the poor foul shooting by shooting 48.4 percent from the line, 9 percentage points above average. On the other end of the court, Wager shot 43.9 percent from the field, as only Nwajei could consistently contribute for the Seahawks. The junior guard racked up 32 points, more than half of the team’s total.
With the return of Sarju, who is currently the third-top scorer in the Ivy League, the Bulldogs are looking to build upon their offensive execution on Wednesday at St. John’s, who has only one loss on the season, to No. 24 UCLA.
“Our takeaways were that we still need to put some work on our defense, as far as staying down in a stance and getting better help rotations,” Wyckoff said.
Tipoff against the Red Storm is set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday.