Defensive woes plagued the Yale women’s basketball team Tuesday night, as the Bulldogs dropped their first road contest of the season to Manhattan College 63–57.
Yale (1–1, 0–0 Ivy) led the Jaspers (2–0, 0–0 MAAC) by one point heading into halftime, but struggled to stop Manhattan’s offense — led by sharp-shooting guard Amani Tatum — in the third quarter. Guard Lena Munzer ’17 nearly brought the Elis back on the strength of her career-high 25 points, but ultimately the team could not build a win streak in the early nonconference season.
“I think defensively we were lacking and didn’t execute our game plan,” guard Megan Gorman ’20 said. “Offensively, we didn’t attack when we should have and that hurt us as well. Everyone on our team knows that [Manhattan] was a team we should and can beat, and it was a matter of not playing our game.”
The Elis came into Tuesday night’s game on the heels of a close win over Binghamton in which a second-half burst by the Bulldogs proved to be the difference. The same story played out in Manhattan’s Draddy Gymnasium, but Yale ended the night on the losing side this time.
The Bulldogs fell behind to start the game as Manhattan built a 4–0 lead behind two jumpers in the opening minutes. Yale responded with a pair of three-pointers of its own from guard Meghan McIntyre ’17 and Munzer, a duo that registered five treys in the season opener. Still, the Jaspers led 12–10 after the first quarter.
The Elis improved in the second quarter, shooting 50 percent from the field en route to a 17–14 advantage in the period. Guard Roxy Barahman ’20 scored all six of her points in the second quarter while dishing out two assists. Her first points of the night came off an assist from Munzer to give Yale its first lead of the game with 8:19 to go before halftime.
“I thought Roxy did a great job of pushing the tempo and being an aggressor on offense,” head coach Allison Guth said.
The two teams exchanged six more lead changes in the highly competitive final eight minutes of the first half. But in the end, Yale headed to the locker room up 27–26 as McIntyre and Munzer led the way with eight points and seven points in the first half, respectively.
Still, the Elis saw a lot of room for improvement in the second half, especially on the defensive end. Yale’s 26 points ceded in the first 20 minutes of Tuesday’s bout was just 10 points shy of Manhattan’s total output in last year’s 62–36 loss at Lee Amphitheater.
“At halftime we talked about trying to make [defensive] adjustments,” Guth said. “[We wanted] to make sure we were guarding their ball-screen offense a certain way and we talked about our help-side awareness.”
Although Yale knew what they needed to do in the second half, their defensive execution fell apart.
Munzer connected on a three-pointer in the first possession of the third quarter, but Tatum responded with a strong frame after being sidelined for much of the first half due to foul trouble. The junior converted a Yale turnover into a jumper on the other end of the floor for her first points of the game and started to heat up. Munzer missed her next field goal attempt, and Tatum once again delivered for the Jaspers to tie the game at 30.
With Manhattan carrying a 36–34 edge, the Elis were held scoreless from the 5:02 mark to the 1:42 mark of the third quarter. Tatum scored seven of the Jaspers’ eight points during this run to put Manhattan ahead 44–34 for its largest lead of the game.
“Manhattan did a great job of creating shots off of the way we were playing — we were icing the ball screens, and a couple of their guards like Tatum hit some good shots,” Munzer said. “They started getting hot, but we [have to] control what we can control — we could have played better defense. We gave them a little bit of a spark going into the fourth quarter.”
Nevertheless, the Bulldogs began the final quarter as the more inspired team. Yale’s defense tightened and did not give up a point for over four minutes, while its offense surged on a 9–0 run. A layup and subsequent three-pointer from Munzer fueled the comeback, with Yale retaking the lead at 49–47 with 6:14 remaining.
The Elis, though, were unable to execute in the game’s late stages. Free throws from forward Jen Berkowitz ’18 broke a scoreless stretch from both teams, but with just under three minutes left, Tatum hit a momentum-shifting shot from long range. On the next possession, she was fouled on another attempt from three and hit all three foul shots to put the Jaspers ahead for good.
“You have to give Manhattan credit … but a lot of it was we had to box out,” Munzer said. “We gave them a lot of second-chance opportunities down the stretch, and in any close game, especially on the road, you can’t give a team like that any kind of second opportunities.”
Yale will stay on the road on Friday night to face Army, which defeated the Bulldogs 65–61 last December in New Haven. Both teams’ leading scorers in that contest, Army’s Kelsey Minato and Yale’s Nyasha Sarju ’16, have since graduated, leaving the door open for other contributors to step up.
On Sunday, the Elis will return home to host Vermont, a team that beat Dartmouth last Sunday, 59–54. Tipoff will be at 2:00 p.m.