The Yale women’s basketball team used a complete team effort and unflagging intensity to dismantle the Ivy League’s top offense on Friday night, finally turning in a full 40 minutes of high-quality basketball for its first conference win of the season.
The Bulldogs (10–7, 1–3 Ivy) implemented a high-energy zone defense that hamstrung the Bears (11–6, 2–2), who converted on just 18 of 71 field-goal attempts. On the offensive end, Yale received a boost from the bench, as Eli reserves scored 22 points in the team’s 73–51 win. After three consecutive Ivy losses — including one to Brown in Providence last Friday — characterized by poor performances in decisive quarters, Yale asserted its presence from the outset and did not relent. The Bulldogs converted their advantage on the defensive end into offense, dominating in the paint, in transition and on the glass.
“Our biggest thing has always been, punch them in the mouth, throw the first punch, set the tone for the whole game,” forward Alexandra Maund ’19 said. “I feel like we really really did that [tonight]. It was a huge thing for us, because we had left our first Brown game [feeling] like we had been stolen from — we felt like we deserved to win that game and we hadn’t played up to our potential. All of us were so fired up … and it was great to put that into action and come out with that start.”
From the tip-off, it was clear the Bulldogs had no intention of repeating their uninspired first half of play from the first Brown game. Yale’s zone defense clamped down on the Bears to block passing lanes and create five turnovers, and visitors managed just eight points on 3–18 shooting in the first quarter. Guard Tamara Simpson ’18 led the transition game, while forward Jen Berkowitz ’18 anchored the Elis in the paint; each scored six points in the 21–8 opening frame and totaled 15 apiece on the game to lead the Blue and White.
Yale maintained its advantage in the second quarter and continued to stymie the Bears, whose leading scorers from the first game — guards Shayna Mehta and Justine Gaziano — combined for just two points in the first half.
The second half was more of the same as the Bears tried to crawl their way back into the game but were denied time and time again. Brown got within nine points of Yale in the early minutes of the final half: However, the Bulldogs pulled away and finished the game with a 22-point lead.
Though not reflected on the scoreboard, Brown outperformed Yale from long range, as the home team shot just 21.1 percent from three-point range on the game. But the Bulldogs were efficient and effective getting the ball inside as well as on the fast break. Berkowitz and Maund missed just three combined field goals working from the low post, and the Elis outscored the Bears 50–16 in the paint. In the first half, only eight of Yale’s 36 points came from outside the key.
Brown’s transition attack fueled the team’s success in the tilt in Providence, but a week later the Bulldogs held the Bears to just four fast-break points. A 55–43 rebounding edge allowed the Elis to push the ball up the court, and Simpson’s five steals triggered successful fast-break attempts.
Yale’s Friday-night performance was a model of what it hopes to repeat in upcoming games. Apart from the intense start and full 40-minute effort, the Bulldogs received contributions from several of their role players.
The Elis have struggled throughout the season to find a solid replacement for Berkowitz when the junior substitutes out for rest. On Friday, however, Maund came in and controlled the low block with confidence. On offense, she set up early and often, calling for the entries into the post. When her teammates got her the ball, Maund used a combination of post moves to tally 10 points, a career high, on 80 percent shooting.
Defensively, Maund was just as impressive. She and Berkowitz totaled five blocks while committing just four personal fouls in 36 combined minutes of play. On one key sequence in the second half, Maund sprinted back on defense for a chase-down block that electrified the home crowd.
“Coach [Allison] Guth said after the game we played complete team basketball, sharing the ball,” guard Mary Ann Santucci ’18 said. “Then obviously, [Maund] coming in off the bench, just bringing energy and [two] swats. She also was finishing really well at the hoop. She just came to play and that’s what she can do, bringing that athleticism, and it was awesome to see her out there.”
Guard Megan Gorman ’20 also played one of the best games of her young career, providing a glimpse of the player she can become this season and beyond. Like Maund, Gorman poured in 10 points and displayed greater aggressiveness in creating her own offensive opportunities than she did earlier in the season. The freshman standout, who has started every game this season for the Bulldogs, also grabbed 15 rebounds for her second double-double of the year.
On a night that was all Yale, the Eli bench also dominated the battle of the reserves. The Bulldog substitutes outscored the Brown reserves 22–6 as every member Yale’s 14-player roster saw time on the court.
“A game like this definitely helps with our confidence,” guard Lena Munzer ’17 said. “Especially when so many people were contributing, a lot of people stepped up. Everyone needs to be feeling good and believing in themselves and this team to be successful in this league. … We’ve been practicing hard and we just needed to see the results.”
Yale will stay at home for next weekend’s Ivy League contests as they face off against Columbia and Cornell on Friday night and Saturday night, respectively.