A year after a 75–44 thrashing of LIU Brooklyn, the Yale women’s basketball team needed strong showings from both veterans and newcomers to emerge with its first win of the season against a much more resilient Blackbirds team.
Led by the stellar two-way play of reigning Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year guard Tamara Simpson ’18, the Elis (1–0, 0–0 Ivy) held off a late surge by the Blackbirds (0–1, 0–0 Northeast) to claim a 62–51 victory in their season opener at John J. Lee Amphitheater.
“We fully anticipated that in the first game we would have some jitters and have to work some things out,” head coach Allison Guth said. I think that we can push ourselves better in terms of understanding our roles, sprinting the floor in transition the way we want to and valuing the possession.”
Along with Simpson, who filled the stat sheet with 21 points, five rebounds and four steals, the team received key contributions from veteran forward Jen Berkowitz ’18, who tallied 13 points while grabbing seven rebounds. Although giving up some height, starting guard Roxy Barahman ’20 led the effort on the glass with an impressive eight rebounds. Forward Megan Gorman ’20 also put together a solid performance on the boards, hauling down seven rebounds while adding eight points for the Bulldogs.
The season opener also marked the collegiate debuts for first-year guard Tori Andrew ’21, forward Alex Cade ’21 and forward Ellen Margaret Andrews ’21. Andrew, the youngest starter for the Bulldogs, facilitated the team’s ball movement en route to a team-high four assists. Although Cade played only seven minutes, she contributed to her team’s success right away, scoring four points on two of four shooting from the field. Andrews also had a solid debut, leading all bench players in scoring with six points on an efficient 50 percent from the field.
The Bulldogs scored the first points in the game with a 3-pointer from Andrew, but the Blackbirds responded with three straight baskets, two of which were triples from guard Jeydah Johnson. After just two minutes of play, the Blackbirds jumped out to an early 8–3 lead.
However, the Bulldogs would respond by buckling down on perimeter defense. Simpson recorded one of her team-high four steals and took the ball coast-to-coast for a score, capping off a 10–0 run that put the Elis back on top, 13–8.
Yale was able to capitalize on 11 first-quarter miscues from LIU Brooklyn by scoring 13 of their 22 points off turnovers in the opening period, giving them a 19–13 advantage heading into the second quarter.
“We just came out with the mindset of winning,” Simpson said. “I think our defensive pressure really led to a lot of open layups, steals and wide-open baskets in transition.”
In the second quarter, the Bulldogs focused on dribble penetration that forced the Blackbirds to send help defenders, leading to wide-open layups for the offense. After Andrews attacked the basket and delivered a pass to Cade, who scored under the bucket, the Bulldogs had their first double-digit lead of the night, 23–13. Another layup by Cade off of a feed from forward Alexandra Maund ’19 gave the Bulldogs their biggest lead of the first half, 25–13.
However, the Blackbirds battled hard to keep the Bulldogs from widening the gap. After a back-and-forth stretch to end the second quarter, LIU Brooklyn guard Seneca Richards hit a 3-pointer to cut the Yale lead to 36–31 just before halftime.
Coming out onto the court for the third quarter, the Bulldogs pushed the pace off of defensive rebounds before the Blackbirds could get back in transition. The Elis were able to push the lead back up to double digits after strong drives to the hoop that resulted in consecutive trips to the free-throw line for Simpson and Andrew. A few possessions later, Cade found Maund under the basket for another layup, and Yale took a 13-point lead heading into the final quarter.
“For me, it is really exciting to see my teammates succeed, and I enjoy finding them for easy buckets,” Andrew said. “I try to read the defense effectively to find the open man, and next game I will work on doing so with fewer turnovers.”
In the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs looked to put the game out of reach, but Blackbirds’ guard Denisha Petty-Evans led a rally with three consecutive scores, including one 3-pointer that added to her team-high 13 points. After careless passing from the Bulldogs that led to a turnover and fast-break score by Blackbirds forward DeAngelique Waithe, the Yale lead was cut to 51-46.
“We got a bit hasty with the way that we were passing the basketball and forced some things that weren’t there,” Guth said. “That’s where I think our turnovers led to points for LIU Brooklyn, and they were able to go for that run.”
The Bulldogs answered the comeback with a sudden onslaught from long range. Simpson splashed two clutch 3-pointers followed by a huge triple from Barahman to push the lead back up to 60–49 with 1:44 remaining. Although Yale shot a dismal four of 20 from deep for the game, the team was able to find the range late in the fourth quarter to seal the game.
Yale returns to action Monday when the Bulldogs host Colgate at 7 p.m.
Jimmy Chen | email@example.com