After splitting its first two games of the season, the Yale women’s basketball team won three of its four contests over November recess behind an improving defense and a veteran offensive attack.
The Elis (4–2, 0–0 Ivy) only gave up an average of 50.7 points per game against three nonconference opponents — Army, Vermont and Illinois State — before gutting out a 71–70 overtime victory at Holy Cross Sunday night. In contrast, Yale ceded 60.2 points per game to non-Ivy foes last season. The balanced attack of four upperclassmen bolstered the offense, as forward Jen Berkowitz ’18 and guards Meghan McIntyre ’17, Lena Munzer ’17 and Tamara Simpson ’18 all scored in double digits in at least two games over Thanksgiving break.
Berkowitz’s and Munzer’s strong performances landed them on the All-Ivy Honor Roll for Week 3, while Simpson’s play moved her into the starting lineup against Illinois State and Holy Cross.
“We’re learning more and more each game about how our freshmen play and how some of our juniors and other teammates who are playing more this season work,” Berkowitz said. “We’re starting to get better chemistry on the court and being able to read … what kinds of things other people need to get in the best position to score.”
The Elis used a balanced attack in a dramatic overtime victory over Holy Cross. Trailing by four points at the half, Yale reversed its previous third-quarter struggles with a dominant showing in the period and surged to take a 51–47 lead. But the Bulldogs blew a 61–55 edge late in the fourth quarter when the Crusaders’ Katie Doherty made a layup to force overtime with just six seconds left.
Yale flexed its rebounding strength on its final possession in overtime, grabbing two crucial offensive rebounds off missed three-pointers from McIntyre. Out of the ensuing timeout, Munzer made a decisive layup — only her second field goal of the game — with 24 seconds remaining. The Elis outrebounded the Crusaders by a margin of 12 and collected 18 rebounds on the offensive glass.
McIntyre filled the offensive void left by Munzer with six treys to lead the team with 22 points. Berkowitz added 16 points and seven rebounds, and guard Megan Gorman ’20 posted her first double-double of her career with 10 points and a game-high 14 boards.
While the Bulldogs finished the break on a high note, they started off the four-game stretch with a close loss at Army’s Christl Arena, falling 59–55. Yale had a two-point halftime lead, but, for the second game in a row, the team came out sluggish in the third quarter and could not mount a fourth-quarter comeback.
Army’s tandem of forwards Lena Hicks and Madison Hovren led the way against the Elis with impressive stat lines of 20 and 19 points, respectively.
“[The difference in this game was the] same thing as the last game [at Manhattan]: our ineffectiveness in executing our defensive game plan,” head coach Allison Guth said. “We’re giving up offensive boards and second chance opportunities, and we’re really not playing clean defense right now.”
The team took Guth’s words to heart and responded well to her emphasis on defense by holding its next two opponents to less than 50 points.
The Bulldogs handily dealt Vermont its third loss of the season with a 77–48 drubbing in New Haven. Yale put together a comprehensive victory as it eclipsed 60 points for the first time all season and held the Catamounts to 32.7 percent shooting from the field.
“We played a lot better defensive-wise [against Vermont and Illinois State],” guard Roxy Barahman ’20 said. “We came out more aggressive, which solved our issue of not being intense enough on defense, … [and] a lot more active with [more] energy, which we used to help us out on the offensive end as well.”
Vermont was simply unable to match the Elis’ offensive firepower, as four players scored in double digits, the most in any game so far this season. Munzer headlined the offense with 17 points and was supported by a trio of 12-point scorers in Berkowitz, McIntyre and Simpson. The Bulldogs connected on a season-high 11 three-pointers, four of which came from McIntyre.
Yale followed up this strong effort with another win against Illinois State, which entered the matchup at 3–1, in a low-scoring but decisive 59–45 triumph. Two Bulldog juniors, Berkowitz and Simpson, made up for an unusually quiet showing from Munzer, the team’s leading scorer heading into the contest. Munzer finished with just two points on 1–7 shooting, including four unsuccessful three-pointer attempts.
Unlike the games at Manhattan and Army, the Bulldogs built a lead early with a 19–12 first quarter advantage and retained it for the rest of the game en route to picking up their first road victory of the season. Berkowitz alone nearly outscored the entire Redbird offense with 11 points in the opening period, and Simpson — newly elevated to the starting lineup — tallied 10 points in the first half to cement the Eli lead. Simpson recorded her most complete game of the season with 16 points, nine rebounds and five steals.
Yale will continue its nonconference schedule this week with back-to-back road contests starting on Wednesday with a matchup against a struggling Wagner team that has lost three consecutive contests. After starting the year 0–2 on the road, the Elis have won two straight away games.
The Bulldogs and Seahawks will tip off at 7 p.m.