For the Yale women’s basketball team, this semester’s reading period will involve gearing up not just for finals but for two opponents as the Bulldogs play their final games before winter break.
The Bulldogs (6–5, 0–0 Ivy) will host Stony Brook (4–4, 0–0 American East) on Saturday and Illinois State (1–6, 0–0 Missouri Valley) on Wednesday, looking to improve upon their performance in a 69–56 loss to St. John’s on Wednesday night. Still a month away from the start of conference play, Yale will look to build up momentum with a streak of wins in the remainder of 2015.
“I think we really plan on getting back to Yale basketball in the way we hustle, have extremely high energy from the get-go and then maintain that energy,” guard Mary Ann Santucci ’18 said.
Stony Brook, similar to Yale, has had a mixed season so far, and is coming off a 64–49 loss against No. 20 Syracuse. Senior forward Brittany Snow, a third-team American East selection last season, leads the Seawolves with 14.9 points per game, but freshman forward Ogechi Anyagaligbo has also bolstered the Stony Brook offense, whose 63.0 points per game are third in the American East.
Anyagaligbo, already a starter in her freshman campaign, averages 10.4 points per game and has earned the title of American East Rookie of the Week for the past three weeks.
“Stony Brook is a good team that looks to score inside the paint,” Yale forward Katie Werner ’17 said. “In preparing for the game we are focusing on defense and limiting second chance scoring opportunities for them.”
Since posting just two wins in its 2014–15 season, Illinois State is still working to recover. Opponents — most recently No. 18 DePaul, which demolished the Redbirds 89–41 — have outscored the team by 15.4 points on average.
As has been the case with Stony Brook, freshmen have already made their mark on Illinois State with two of the top four team spots in points per game. Rookie guard Shakeela Fowler has started all seven games for the Redbirds and averages 12.1 per game, while forward Millie Stevens, who came to Normal, Illinois by way of Surrey, England, has started four games and averages 6.1.
Like the Bulldogs, Illinois State has struggled with turnovers, averaging almost 21 a game, a tendency the Elis will look to capitalize on.
The matchup will also serve as a homecoming for Illinois State senior forward Colleene Smith, the team’s third-highest scorer and a three-time state championship winner with New Haven’s James Hill House High School.
Though the two contests are fast approaching, captain and guard Whitney Wyckoff ’16 stressed the importance of the team’s practices beforehand in preparation. Wyckoff said that the team’s performance in a game is best predicted by its last practice beforehand.
“We play how we practice, so overall intensity needs to increase,” Wyckoff said.
The two games precede a 12-day break from competition for the Bulldogs, after which the team plays four games before competing for the Ivy League title. Yale will play Indiana, Albany, New Hampshire and Boston College before spring term begins.
On Jan. 16, the Elis will open conference play at home against Brown.