After a pair of losses last weekend to fall out of a tie for first place in the Ivy League, the Yale women’s basketball team hopes to rebound in its second consecutive road weekend.
Columbia (11–8, 0–4 Ivy) will host the Elis (11–10, 2–2) on Friday, whe the teams will battle it out in New York City. The Bulldogs will then travel upstate to Ithaca to take on the Big Red (11–7, 3–1) in hopes of improving upon their 1–8 record as a visitor.
“Columbia and Cornell are both very good teams, and we are approaching this weekend knowing we have a challenge in two tough and hard-working opponents,” guard Nyasha Sarju ’16 said.
Although Yale had a successful start to Ivy League play with a pair of wins against Brown, its conference record evened out after losses to Penn and Princeton, who boast a combined 5–1 record. The Quakers, alone atop the Ancient Eight with an undefeated record, faced a tentative Eli offense and capitalized en route to a 68–49 win. The Bulldogs could not recover against the defending conference champion Tigers, as they suffered their second straight loss despite 10 points and an especially impressive seven-steal performance from guard Tamara Simpson ’18.
Simpson has been active on the defensive end all season long, and she is the only player in the Ivy League averaging more than three steals per game. She needs just seven more to break Yale’s all-time single-season steal record, currently held by Sue Johnson ’86, who had 74 steals in the 1983–84 season.
The sophomore guard will have a chance to reach the milestone in New York, where, despite the team’s road struggles for much of the season, the Bulldogs can move to 2–2 away from home in conference play. Yale defeated Brown in Providence on Jan. 22.
Just as Brown has yet to pick up a win in the Ivy League, Columbia is still searching for its first conference victory. The Lions have come close on multiple occasions, as three of their losses have been by single digits, including two straight three-point defeats. Turnovers may play a key role in Friday’s contest, as both teams have been plagued by turnover trouble this season, with Yale and Columbia each averaging about 17 per game in Ivy action.
Columbia’s offense is carried by the second-leading scorer in the league, forward Camille Zimmerman, but its defense has conceded 73.8 points per game and opponents have shot 46.1 percent from the floor, both league worsts. Meanwhile, teams are scoring just 56.5 points per game while shooting 38.8 percent against Yale.
While the Lions are second in the league in scoring offense, Yale will face the top scoring threat the next day in Ithaca. Cornell is averaging 69.3 points per game during conference play, a full 12.3 points higher than Yale’s average. In fact, the Bulldogs have failed to score more than 50 points in their last three games. Leading the Big Red’s offense will be forward Nia Marshall, who tops the conference leaderboard with 17.4 points per game.
“We try to approach every game the same by playing our brand of basketball each night,” guard and captain Whitney Wyckoff ’16 said. “Both Cornell and Columbia have very strong post play and talented guards as well, so it will take a team defensive effort both nights to get two wins.”
While Cornell is the best shooting team, both inside and beyond the three-point arc, Yale can look to gain an advantage on the boards. In four games, the Bulldogs rank third in rebounding margin, outrebounding opponents by an average of 4.8 per game. Cornell is seventh, having been outrebounded by 5.8 boards by game.
However, the Bulldogs must be wary of Cornell’s aggressive offensive attack, as the Big Red leads the Ivy League in free throws made per game. Yale has committed the most fouls this season in the entire conference.
With just six days to come off their winless weekend, the Bulldogs, according to Wyckoff, are following head coach Allison Guth’s lead. The senior captain said Guth approaches each opponent the same way regardless of record in order to encourage the team to play its own style of basketball.
But regardless of the preparation, the team’s results may come down to resolving its recent shooting woes. After shooting greater than 36 percent from the field in 14 of 15 straight games, Yale has shot below that mark in its last three contests.
Sitting in fifth place in the conference, the Bulldogs understand they cannot afford many more slip-ups if they want to contend for the league title.
“After losing last weekend, we really came into this week hungry,” guard Lena Munzer ’17 said. “[We] are coming in early and staying after practice. At the end of the day, it’s going to come down to who wants it more.”
Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on Friday and at 6 p.m. on Saturday.