Games at conference favorites Penn and Princeton proved too much for the Yale women’s basketball team this weekend, as the Bulldogs fell in both contests to drop to 1–8 on the road.
Yale (11–10, 2–2 Ivy) first played Penn (14–3, 3–0) in Philadelphia on Friday, losing 68–49 to the lone undefeated team remaining in the conference. A day later, the Elis played Princeton (13–4, 2–1), which went undefeated last year in regular-season play. Despite a second-half comeback attempt, Yale was unable to complete the upset, falling 65–50 to the Tigers.
“We had some good runs in both games. We just didn’t sustain that type of play for the entire game both games, which is what we needed to do to beat two very good teams,” captain and guard Whitney Wyckoff ’16 said. “Although we improved from Friday against Penn to Saturday against Princeton, specifically on defense, we didn’t shoot very well either night.”
In the first quarter against Penn, the lead changed hands seven times but ultimately ended in a 10–10 scoreline heading into the second quarter. However, after Penn pulled ahead with a three-pointer early in the second quarter, they would not relinquish the lead for the remainder of the contest. Capitalizing on three three-pointers in the quarter, as well as five Yale turnovers, the Quakers built a seven-point lead by halftime.
Turnovers continued to plague the Bulldogs in the third quarter, as they made four to the Quakers’ one, preventing Yale from cutting into the deficit. Meanwhile, Penn converted on all eight of its free-throw attempts to further cement its lead. In the fourth quarter, Yale was never closer than 13 points behind and the lead swelled to 24 at one point.
Ultimately, the Bulldogs were unable to contain forwards Michelle Nwokedi and Sydney Stipanovich, as well as guard Anna Ross, who together combined for 46 points. Stipanovich, the second-leading rebounder in the Ivy League, also dominated on the glass and wound up with 16 rebounds.
“Our team will definitely be working on consistently being a presence on the help-line in order to reduce the amount of touches [Stipanovich] gets [next time],” guard Tamara Simpson ’18 said. “A lot of Penn’s offense runs through its posts so once we eliminate that option, I think we’ll be fine.”
An on-and-off problem throughout the season for Yale, turnovers once again hurt the Bulldogs as the Quakers scored 23 points off turnovers, as compared to just 12 for Yale.
Overall, the Bulldogs struggled from the field and only shot 35.7 percent on the evening, including just three made three-pointers out of 19 attempts. Simpson and guard Nyasha Sarju ’16 paced the Elis with 10 points apiece, though Sarju made just five of her 18 attempts from the floor, which was well below her 48.2-percent season average entering the weekend.
“No one was shooting particularly well,” guard Mary Ann Santucci ’18 said. “Simpson played great defense getting tons of steals and keeping us alive early on, [but] I think it came down to the fact that they were shooting pretty well, and we were not.”
Less than 24 hours later, the Bulldogs were in New Jersey to play the Tigers. Princeton jumped out a significant lead in the first quarter, outscoring Yale 19–8 behind 57.1-percent shooting, as compared to just 17.6 percent for Yale. But the Bulldogs fought back in the second, outscoring the Tigers 20–14 to cut the deficit to just five.
“I think our run in the second quarter came from our fight and the fact that [since] we knew they were going to make runs, we just needed to clamp the bleeding,” Santucci said. “I think we had some energy off the bench that helped rally us a bit in the second quarter. Simpson came in with some clutch steals that were momentum-shifters.”
The Bulldogs, however, were unable to maintain that momentum in the second half. Tiger forward Alex Wheatley nearly matched Yale’s 13 points as a team as she scored 12 points in the third quarter alone, making six of her eight attempts from the field. Four of the Tigers’ five starters finished in double figures against the Bulldogs, including Wheatley and guards Vanessa Smith, Michelle Miller and Annie Tarakchian. Simpson was the sole player to reach double figures for the Bulldogs.
Against the Tigers, the story of turnovers was flipped however, as the Yale defense was able to force 25 turnovers, the highest number Princeton has committed since the final game of the 2013–14 season. The Bulldogs scored 27 points off of these turnovers, compared to 17 points for Princeton on Yale’s 17 turnovers.
“Although we did not achieve the desired result [against Princeton], we had incredible defensive and offensive possessions which showed that we have the ability to keep up with and outwork Princeton,” Simpson said. “There are definitely things we must fix in order to beat them next time, [including] defensive lapses and turnovers. However, we came out of that game knowing that it was a winnable one.”
Penn now sits alone atop the Ivy League standings, undefeated after three wins, including one over Princeton. The Tigers are currently fourth while the Bulldogs find themselves in fifth with another pair of Ivy road tests set for this weekend.
Yale will take on 0–4 Columbia on Friday at 7 p.m., with a game against 3–1 Cornell scheduled for 6 p.m. on Saturday.