Coming off two exhilarating overtime victories, the Yale women’s basketball team will look to continue its momentum on the eve of Ivy League play.
The Bulldogs (5–3, 0–0 Ivy) will stay instate to take on Central Connecticut State University (0–8, 0–0 Northeast) on Saturday at Detrick Gymnasium for their third game of the four-game road trip. The free-falling Blue Devils provide an opportunity for the Bulldogs to build on their two-game winning streak and secure their fourth straight road win away.
But more challenging games await for Yale in the coming weeks, including a visit from Big Ten opponent Indiana (5–4, 0–0 Big Ten).
“It will be fun to play Indiana at home on [Dec.] 21,” guard Mary Ann Santucci ’18 said. “They are a big-time program but our coach has taught us the mentality of respecting all, and fearing none.”
However, Yale has two more away games before the Indiana contest. In the first against the Blue Devils, CCSU comes into Saturday’s matchup without having tasted victory yet in this year’s campaign, losing every game by double digits. Two of its defeats were extremely decisive, losing by 50 to No. 10 West Virginia and by 44 to Virginia.
Although no player has emerged as a standout in the first eight games of the season, forward Andi Lyndon has led the Blue Devil offense this season. The Allison Park, Pennsylvania native averages 12.9 points per game, while also grabbing 6.1 rebounds per game. If the Elis seek to slow Lydon down, they must be careful to do so without fouling her. Shooting an efficient 85.7 percent from the charity stripe so far, Lydon ranks second in the northeast in free throw percentage.
But Yale’s biggest advantage against the Blue Devils perhaps lies in its high-powered offense. The Bulldogs will look to exploit the weak CCSU defense with their quick-paced scoring, which currently ranks second in the Ivy League with 70.9 points per contest. In contrast, the Blue Devils rank dead last in the northeast in opponents’ field goal percentage, allowing teams to shoot 47.1 percent from the field.
On Saturday, Yale can become the second Ivy League team to defeat CCSU this season. The Blue Devils have already faced off against red-hot Brown and suffered a demoralizing 78–55 defeat. Yale’s performance in the 1 p.m. contest against CCSU could provide some insight into the looming Ivy League matchup between the Bulldogs and the Bears.
Next for the Bulldogs after CCSU comes Saint Peter’s, a team looking to rebound after suffering three straight defeats. The Peacocks boast a defense strikingly unlike that of the Blue Devils, ranking first in their conference by holding their opponents to 38 percent shooting from the field.
However, the Bulldogs can make up for potential shooting woes by working hard on the offensive glass, as Saint Peter’s gives up the most rebounds in the Metro Atlantic at 42.9 per game. The Peacocks do not boast any legitimate offensive threats, as their leading scorer guard Alyssa Velles puts up 10.1 points per contest. If the Elis can prevent any breakout performances from the other Saint Peter’s players, they match up fairly well against the Peacocks. Led by guard Tamara Simpson ’18, the Bulldogs have played strong defense this season, especially by forcing turnovers. The last game against Stony Brook encapsulates this strength, the Seawolves turned the ball over 27 times.
“I’ve gotta give credit to my teammates, we all make defense a priority,” Simpson said. “When you have five people on the floor playing pressure defense for the entirety of the game, the other team is bound to turn the ball over. Most times I’m just in the right place at the right time, but honestly all of my teammates have forced huge turnovers.”
After taking on Saint Peter’s on Dec. 12, the Bulldogs will return home for a one-game stint to face Indiana. The Hoosiers have had an up-and-down campaign thus far, winning four of their first five games before dropping three of their last four contests. Indiana boasts a roster that balances its scoring efforts, with four players averaging double figures in points. Their biggest offensive threat is first team All-Big Ten guard Tyra Buss, who ranks fourth in the conference with 20.4 points per game.
But like the Blue Devils, the Hoosiers’ glaring weakness is their inability to defend effectively. Indiana ranks dead last in its conference in field goal percentage defense. However, the Hoosiers are excellent at defending the 3-point shot, ranking first in the Big Ten in 3-point percentage defense. The Bulldogs may look to take their offense deeper into the post to take advantage of Indiana’s relatively softer defense a few steps inside the arc.
The Bulldogs’ most daunting challenge will come against undefeated UC Davis in the first round of the Fordham Holiday Classic on Dec. 28. Receiving votes in the national polls, the Aggies have dominated the opposition thus far, winning each game by an average of 16.5 points. Yale will have to limit the impacts of UC Davis’ several offensive weapons. First-team All-Big West forward Morgan Bertsch has led the team to the top spot in the conference thus far by topping the Big West with averages of 22.0 points per game on 61.9 percent shooting.
Second-team selection Dani Nafekh has decimated her opponents from long range, leading the conference in 3-point percentage shooting, with 51.9 percent from the outside. Though the Aggies run a high-octane offense, the Bulldogs can look to use their notable advantage on the glass. The leading rebounder for UC Davis, forward Cierra Hall, secures a relatively unspectacular 5.1 rebounds per game. With a total team effort on the boards, the Bulldogs can extend their possessions and create more opportunities to match the offensive firepower of the Aggies.
“I feel as though we have been doing really well on the road, partially because I guess there is less pressure to have to win on home court,” guard Roxy Barahman ’20 said. “We will definitely need to keep this up going into Ivy play.”
After facing UC Davis, the Elis will commence conference play with a bout against Brown on Jan. 12.
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