After earning an even 3–3 record in six nonconference games over the past month, the Yale women’s basketball team both concluded its winter break and began its Ivy League season on a high note with a commanding 81–54 home win over Brown on Saturday.
Four Bulldog guards — Nyasha Sarju ’16, Meghan McIntyre ’17, Tamara Simpson ’18 and Mary Ann Santucci ’18 — hit double digits in points against the Bears (12–3, 0–1 Ivy), contributing to Yale’s (10–8, 1–0) best offensive performance of the year. The Elis matched their attack with an equally effective defense, limiting Brown to its lowest point total of the season.
“We came out with an intensity and a focus on our defense and though we had our lulls, we sustained [this] defensive focus for the majority of the game,” Sarju said. “The way we attacked the boards was crucial in our win, both in terms of a one-and-done mentality on the defensive end and in terms of giving ourselves more than one chance by attacking the offensive glass.”
Although the Bulldogs jumped to an early five-point lead, Brown tied the score at 12 with three minutes to go in the first quarter. Sarju then hit six points, giving Yale a significant lead that the team would only build on for the rest of the game.
McIntyre took over as the star in the second quarter, scoring 10 points — a point a minute — and accounting for half of Yale’s total offense in the frame.
Yale saved its best performance for the fourth quarter, however, doubling Brown’s point total with 24 points. The Bulldogs built a lead as large as 28 points at one point, which was only diminished in the last minute of the game.
Yale’s field-goal shooting proved to be the difference in the second half, as the Elis hit all of their free throws in the half while making exactly 50 percent of their field-goal attempts.
Overall, Yale outshot Brown from every point on the court, shooting 44.8 percent from the field and 86.7 percent from the free-throw line, compared to 35.1 and 71.4 percent, respectively, for the Bears. The Bulldogs also limited Brown to just two second-chance points, largely due to dominance on the glass with a 19–5 advantage in offensive rebounds.
“I was very impressed by how the team handled Brown on the defensive end, which was a result of a hard week of practice where the main focus was shutting down [its] offensive sets with our intense pressure defense,” Simpson said.
Despite the outstanding all-around performance, the Bulldogs were not entirely able to stop star freshman guard Shayna Mehta, who shot a game-high 16 points and bested her per-game average of 13.4.
Following a trend from the season, the Bulldogs also struggled with turnovers, committing 19 against Brown, a number Simpson deemed “unacceptable.”
“We had a lot of traveling calls and unforced turnovers that we really need to focus on and clean up,” Sarju said. “Taking care of the ball is very important to doing well in the future.”
Sarju also noted that the team avoided being overconfident after the blowout victory, as it was only the first Ivy game of the season.
Players credited much of the team’s success in the Ivy opener to a difficult nonconference schedule, which the Bulldogs finished over the break. Between Dec. 12 and Jan. 10, Yale defeated Stony Brook, Illinois State and New Hampshire but fell to Indiana, Boston College and regular NCAA tournament competitor Albany.
Yale had the most intensive nonconference schedule of any team in the Ivy League, both in number of games played and in quality of their opponents, according to captain and guard Whitney Wyckoff ’16.
“The competition was mostly similar or better than what we will face in the Ivy League, so at this point we have the confidence that we know how and have the ability to beat any team that we face in the Ivy League,” Wyckoff said.
Penn, Harvard and Cornell also won their opening conference games and sit with Yale atop the Ivy League standings. The Bulldogs will continue their Ivy schedule by playing Brown again, this time in Providence, on Saturday at 2 p.m.