Seeking its first victory in over a month, the Yale women’s basketball team will visit Harvard and Dartmouth this weekend in its final road trip of the season.
After winning their first two conference games of the season, both against Brown, the Elis (11–16, 2–8 Ivy) have been unable to continue their success against the rest of the Ivy League, losing each of their last eight games and falling to sixth in the conference standings in the process.
“We are really excited to get a second stab at Harvard and Dartmouth,” guard Mary Ann Santucci ’18 said. “We are ready to go all out and play complete 40-minute games, and [we are] just looking forward to having fun and playing with confidence the way we know we can.”
Yale’s slide continued last weekend as it fell at home to Penn and Princeton, with both teams now winners of eight consecutive games. The Bulldogs fell behind early to Princeton on Friday night, and were unable to erase a 22-point halftime deficit despite a combined 68 points from captain and guard Whitney Wyckoff ’16, forward Nyasha Sarju ’16 and guard Tamara Simpson ’18. The team shot just 39 percent from the field and was outrebounded 42–28 by the Tigers. Playing on Saturday without Simpson, who suffered a concussion in the previous night’s game, the Bulldogs never held a lead against Penn, trailing by as many as 34 and managing just 59 points against the Ivy League’s stingiest team defense.
“We have struggled to play well for four quarters in our past few games,” Wyckoff said. “We are focusing on playing great defense and executing on offense the entire game.”
Despite the two losses, a silver lining to come of last weekend’s play was the contributions from guard Lena Munzer ’17. Starting in Simpson’s absence on Saturday and playing the entire 40 minutes, Munzer scored a career-high 20 points on 7–10 shooting, including a 5–7 mark from behind the three-point line.
First journeying to Cambridge this Friday to take on Harvard (12–11, 7–3 Ivy), Yale will seek revenge after the Crimson escaped New Haven with a 72–69 victory on Feb. 13. The Bulldogs led by as many as 23 points in the first half of that contest before Harvard mounted the fourth-largest comeback in NCAA history en route to the road win.
Yale faces an uphill battle as it looks to turn things around in Ivy play. The Bulldogs have only managed an average of 63 points per game during their eight-game skid, and on Friday will defend against a Harvard offense scoring nearly 75 points per game during its active four-game win streak.
The Crimson is paced by a trio of seniors: AnnMarie Healy, Shilpa Tummala and Kit Metoyer combine to score more than half of Harvard’s points, with Healy leading at 16.0 points per game.
“Defensively, we may mix it up a little, just to try and contain both Harvard’s and Dartmouth’s offensive threats,” Sarju said. “Regardless of our actual defensive scheme, the two most important things we must do are communicate on screens, cutters and in transition.”
Facing Dartmouth (11–15, 6–4 Ivy) on Saturday will bring back similar memories for the Elis — Yale also held a 20-point first-half lead against the Big Green on Feb. 12 before Dartmouth’s hot-shooting second half propelled the team to a 68–63 victory. The Bulldogs shot just 31 percent in the decisive fourth quarter, compared to Dartmouth’s 73 percent clip.
Despite being unable to secure a win in their last meeting against the Big Green, the Elis did control several defensive statistical categories, forcing 20 turnovers and scoring 14 points on the fast break while holding Dartmouth to zero fastbreak points for the game.
“Offensively, we want to make sure we have a lot of ball movement especially against [both teams’] zone and we want to attack all night long,” Sarju said. “First and foremost we want our defensive intensity to lead to points in transition.”
Yale will have to key in on Dartmouth forward Lakin Roland, who leads the team in scoring and is tied with Healy for second in the Ivy League in scoring at 16.0 points per game. Roland nearly matched that figure in the fourth quarter alone against Yale two weekends ago, scoring 15 of her game-high 24 points in the final frame.
The Bulldogs split their Dartmouth-Harvard road trip last season, winning 60–46 over the Big Green before falling to the Crimson in Cambridge 65–55 the following day.
Yale will take on Harvard at 7 p.m. on Friday, with the rivalry matchup broadcast on ESPN3. Tipoff versus Dartmouth will be at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
Madeleine Wuelfing contributed reporting.