After a sluggish start, the Yale women’s basketball team surged in the fourth quarter to grind out a win in its opening game of the 2016–17 campaign at home against Binghamton.
Yale (1–0, 0–0 Ivy) incorporated its newcomers into the fold right away, although ultimately it was a tandem of upperclassmen who helped the Bulldogs pull away from Binghamton (0–2, 0–0 America East), 57–48. Guards Mary Ann Santucci ’18 and Tamara Simpson ’18 scored nine points apiece in the final quarter, nearly surpassing the Elis’ entire first-half production.
“We started a little slow for us and our style of play — I think that was in part due to the way [Binghamton] set up in their zone and the way they were trying to control the tempo,” head coach Allison Guth said. “It took us a little while to move the basketball at the speed I was hoping to move it.”
Although the Elis jumped out to a quick 5–0 lead — during which guard Megan Gorman ’20, the lone freshman starter, tallied the first points of her college career — they failed to get into an offensive rhythm. Yale had difficulty advancing the ball against Binghamton’s press and got into foul trouble early, committing four offensive fouls alone in the first quarter.
The Bearcats also came out in a 2–3 zone that prevented easy post entries for the Bulldogs’ offense.
“We knew we were better than what we put out on the floor in the first half,” said guard Lena Munzer ’17, who recorded 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists. “Maybe some of it was jitters, but we got all of that out of the way and stayed out of foul trouble [in the second half] with some of our players, which was really key.”
Trailing 14–8 after 10 minutes of play, guard Meghan McIntyre ’17 got Yale rolling with a hot hand from three-point range. She went 2–3 from deep in the quarter and was able to keep the Bulldogs within striking distance.
A year removed from launching the second-most three-pointers in the Ivy League, Yale continued to feature long-range shots in its offensive attack.
“We were moving the ball in and out really well in our zone offense,” McIntyre said. “I think that really helped and obviously hitting those big threes carried momentum into defense and just carried us through the game.”
Still, as McIntyre pointed out, it was the team’s defense that helped erase its early deficit, as it conceded just seven points in the quarter.
Following McIntyre’s second trey, Munzer started the defensive barrage, absorbing a charge to ignite the Yale defense. The Bulldogs then went on to force turnovers in back-to-back possessions and ultimately held Binghamton to five points in the final eight minutes of the second quarter.
“I thought we made a pretty big defensive adjustment,” McIntyre said. “We had some big charges, and I think that really sparked our momentum.”
While Binghamton dominated the offensive glass in the first half 7–2, the Elis were more forceful after the break, pulling down five offensive boards to the Bearcats’ zero. After a back-and-forth third quarter, Yale led 31–30 heading into the final 10 minutes.
The Bulldogs started to fare better at increasing the tempo and driving toward the basket in the final quarter. Simpson went coast-to-coast for a layup to widen the Bulldogs’ lead to 35–30, and after a few scoreless possessions, Santucci attacked the basket and flipped the ball in with her left hand to force a Binghamton timeout with 6:35 left in the game.
“Especially against the zone it’s easy to become more passive and just keep passing the ball around,” Munzer said. “You really have to make sure you’re staying aggressive.”
This penetration opened up options on the perimeter, and Santucci delivered two treys on kick-outs to put the Elis in front 43–32. The Bearcats’ guard Jasmine Sina matched this three, and later answered a Simpson long-ranger with another one of her own to keep pressure on Yale with 1:53 remaining. With Binghamton down by only six, Simpson took a handoff from Gorman and drove to the lane for a layup that gave her team its ultimate margin of victory.
All four of Yale’s healthy freshmen saw playing time in the season-opener, with Gorman leading the pack with 23 minutes of action. She grabbed seven rebounds but struggled to connect on her looks, shooting just two of seven, while playing the high post position.
“She did a great job on the boards and from a defensive perspective,” Guth said. “I think she’s a much better player from an offensive perspective — not just settling for the jumper but being able to attack off the dribble as well.”
Yale will have little time to celebrate its first win, with a road trip to Manhattan College looming on Tuesday. The Jaspers defeated Holy Cross in dramatic fashion to open their campaign, with guard Maeve Parahus swishing a game-winning three-pointer for the last of her career-high 19 points in head coach Heather Vulin’s first game with the team.
Last season, the Elis thrashed Manhattan, 62–36, in New Haven. McIntyre and Simpson each scored 10 points, with the latter also swiping six steals.
“It’s a quick turnaround,” Guth said. “They run a motion offense that’s a pretty good offense … and I think Holy Cross is a very good team and a well-coached team, so we’re going to have a tough matchup on the road. [ Manhattan is] playing with a lot of confidence with that new leadership.”
The rematch in Riverdale, New York, will tip off at 7:00 p.m.