The Yale women’s basketball team celebrated a historic individual milestone over the weekend while splitting a pair of conference contests that further cemented the Bulldogs’ place near the bottom of the Ivy League standings — a microcosm of a promising but often frustrating season.
Both of Yale’s (11–10, 2–6 Ivy) games were moved back a day due to large amounts of snowfall, but undeterred by the delay, the Elis defeated a struggling Dartmouth (6–15, 1–7) team on Saturday, 57–50. The visitors got off to a good start but allowed the Big Green to get back into the game in the second half. Nevertheless, a resilient fourth-quarter showing earned Yale its second conference win on the season. Despite the Saturday triumph, the Bulldogs failed to achieve the breakthrough win they sought over an Ancient Eight contender. Yale floundered Sunday against Harvard (18–3, 6–2), which capitalized on a forgettable shooting performance from the Blue. The Crimson’s 76–56 victory dulled guard Tamara Simpson’s ’18 achievement of becoming Yale’s all-time steals leader as a junior.
“Success isn’t [a] ladder where you’re always going up,” head coach Allison Guth said following last weekend’s losses to Columbia and Cornell. “It’s like a jungle gym; that visual image is what we’re on right now, that road, and it’s really in between the ears more than it’s physical right now … I think we definitely have a will to win, but how to win on the floor, it’s not happening.”
In Hanover, Yale finally established itself at the outset of a game as Simpson and guard Lena Munzer ’17 knocked down two quick threes as part of a 10–2 run to start the contest. Forward Jen Berkowitz ’18 then joined her teammates on the perimeter, connecting on two treys of her own as part of a career-high-tying 21 points. Berkowitz was also effective inside, pulling in 10 rebounds for her second double-double of the season.
Boosted by their torrid outside shooting, the Bulldogs entered the second quarter with a 22–12 lead, marking just their second Ivy League game in which they held an advantage after the first 10 minutes of play. But in the second frame, the Elis reverted to what has been an unfortunate trademark of the offense: long stretches of scoreless play. Still, despite a six-minute drought, Yale went into halftime with a 28–22 lead, having held the Big Green to under 35 percent shooting from the field.
“We knew we had to come out and throw the first punch,” Munzer said. “That’s something we’ve been struggling with the past two games, and [against Dartmouth] we did an awesome job of coming out with fire from the tip. … This was definitely a step forward for us.”
The Elis continued an uneven stretch to start the second half. The Big Green retook the lead after an 11–2 run culminated in a layup from forward Fanni Szabo, one of the three Dartmouth frontcourt players who scored double figures. After 30 minutes of play, the Big Green held a 42–41 advantage.
Berkowitz set a different tone for the final period, however, as she hit another trey to key a 12–0 Yale spurt to start the frame. The Bulldog defense shut out Dartmouth for more than five minutes to consolidate the edge. A late surge from the hosts narrowed the difference to five, but forward Bronwyn Davies ’20 — who notched a career-high eight points in a career-high 18 minutes played — hit a jumper out of a Yale timeout that put the game out of reach and brought the Elis out of the cellar of the Ancient Eight.
After their win on Saturday night, the Elis faced a tougher matchup the next day against the Crimson, which lasted unbeaten in conference play until last weekend. The most recent installment of the storied rivalry was close in the opening minutes of action, as Yale held an 8–7 advantage midway through the first quarter. However, Harvard began to impose its will from beyond the arc as a trio of three-pointers pushed the Crimson lead to double digits.
Yale’s rival took advantage of the Elis’ poor shooting and stretched its lead to 12 before guard Meghan McIntyre ’17 caught on fire to keep the visiting team within striking distance. Starting in place of guard Megan Gorman ’20, who came off the bench for the first time all season, McIntyre went a perfect three-for-three from beyond the arc for nine important first-half points. The senior from California, who had not started in Yale’s last 16 games, took advantage of her opportunity and poured in a team-high 17 points on six-of-eight shooting. Still, McIntyre’s efforts were not enough as the Crimson held a nine-point lead at the half.
The second half went mostly the same way as Harvard freshman sensation Katie Benzan teamed up with Madeline Raster on the perimeter to put the Elis away. The Crimson prevailed 76–56 in a game that got away from Yale in the second half; Benzan posted an impressive 19 points and 10 assists, and Raster posted a career-high 24 points to bring Harvard’s record to 6–2 in the Ivy League.
“I think in [that] game we beat ourselves,” McIntyre said. “We dug ourselves in a hole by not locking down defensively and missing some layups throughout the game. They hit a lot of tough shots so [we] have to give credit to them but we need to move on and learn from this game.”
Behind McIntyre’s 17, Berkowitz had 16 points and 10 rebounds but shot an uncharacteristically low 25 percent from the field. A bright spot came in Simpson, whose three steals gave her Yale’s all-time career steals record at 212 with over a season still to play in her career. Simpson has led the Ivy League in steals in each of her three seasons and currently holds an 18-steal lead over Brown’s Shayna Mehta atop the Ancient Eight.
The Bulldogs currently sit tied for sixth place in the Ivy League with Columbia, three games out of position to qualify for the Ivy League Tournament.