The Yale women’s basketball team won a total of two games on the road all of last season. The Bulldogs surpassed this mark in just their seventh game of the 2016–17 season with a victory at Wagner Wednesday night.
The Elis (5–2, 0–0 Ivy) came into the matchup on a three-game winning streak and were able to keep their momentum going with a 66–52 triumph over the Seahawks (1–5, 0–0 Northeastern). Led by the strong play of forward Jen Berkowitz ’18 and guard Tamara Simpson ’18, Yale pulled away in the fourth quarter after a tightly contested first three frames.
The junior tandem accounted for over half of the team’s offensive production with 39 points on 50 percent shooting. This performance came on the heels of a week in which Berkowitz was named Ivy League Player of the Week and Simpson was moved into the starting lineup.
“I think winning three straight games including two road wins [was] huge for us,” guard Meghan McIntyre ’17 said prior to the matchup. “To have those two road wins right away [was] huge, giving us a lot of confidence and momentum going into this long stretch of a week.”
With Yale arriving to the gym late due to traffic — the game started over 50 minutes late — and Wagner limited to a six-player rotation, both teams struggled to get into a rhythm and battled back and forth over a low-scoring first 30 minutes.
Low field-goal percentages and turnovers plagued both squads, with Wagner closing the first half with a 26–25 edge. Simpson led the Bulldogs in the first 20 minutes with 10 points, including two three-pointers, and four of the Elis’ nine first-half steals. A year removed from breaking the Yale single-season record for steals in the season, Simpson compiled her highest total of the season with seven swipes.
“I’m looking for consistency out of [Simpson],” head coach Allison Guth said. “She provided sparks and momentum shifts when we were using our pressure defense. She started the game getting shots around the perimeter and those are important for her to be effective and will make her a really tough player to guard.”
Berkowitz anchored Yale in the second half with consistent position in the low post. With the Seahawks leading 40–36 in the third quarter, the Wayland, Massachusetts, native converted two layups, both assisted by McIntyre, to even the score at the end of the third period.
Berkowitz finished with 20 points and seven rebounds on 50 percent field-goal shooting, continuing her recent scoring hot streak.
“Jen has been in beast mode in the last few games,” guard Mary Ann Santucci ’18 said. “She has a super strong presence in the post, [and] she can pretty much go up against any post [player]. Whether they’re bigger than her, it doesn’t matter — she has post moves and a set of skills so that she can just really dominate down there.”
While the short-handed Seahawks stuck with Yale for three quarters, they could not sustain their inspired effort down the stretch. Berkowitz backed her Wagner defender down in the post and put the Bulldogs ahead for good on the first play of the fourth quarter, while a combination of tight defense from the Elis and fatigue for Wagner held the home team scoreless for over two minutes.
Leading 46–41, Berkowitz demonstrated her versatility, spreading the floor and hitting a three-pointer off of McIntyre’s fifth assist, a game-high total. Simpson, who started her third game in a row after beginning the season coming off the bench, put the game firmly out of reach at 54–44 with a three-point play with 4:30 remaining in the game. The Bulldogs outscored the Seahawks 26–12 in the final period.
Julia McClure and Kellie Crouch each played all 40 minutes for Wagner, recording 15 and 11 points, respectively.
Guth has emphasized the importance of controlling the offensive glass all season, and the Elis delivered in that category on Wednesday, grabbing 14 offensive rebounds to Wagner’s eight. Berkowitz and forward Alexandra Maund ’19, who missed all of last season due to injury, each contributed four boards on the offensive glass.
The win at Wagner came during the busiest week of the team’s season. The Bulldogs return to the court tomorrow to take on an 0–5 LIU Brooklyn team looking for its first win of the season.
The Blackbirds competed in the closest game of their season, a 50–48 loss to New Jersey Institute of Technology, as part of the TD Bank Classic in Burlington, Vermont, on Saturday. Senior guard Shanovia Dove, LIU Brooklyn’s leading scorer, posted a double-double in the tight loss, racking up 15 points and 10 rebounds in addition to four steals.
The Elis will then return to New Haven to host Albany on Saturday for their third game in four days and their fourth of the week. The hectic schedule presents a chance to prepare for the Ivy League season, during which the Bulldogs will play at most two games a week against their conference foes.
“We’re excited that we have the back-to-back games [this week because] that’s how it is when we’re in the Ivies,” Santucci said. “This is our first little glimpse of that, what it’s going to be like, for everyone to be playing one night and then back at it the next.”
Yale’s tilt against LIU Brooklyn will tip off at 7 p.m. on Thursday night at the Steinberg Wellness Center in Brooklyn.