After splitting the season series against Brown, the Yale women’s basketball team looks to secure two conference road victories. But a sharp-shooting Dartmouth squad and a Harvard team with a perfect home record stand in its way.
The Bulldogs (8–7, 1–1 Ivy) will travel to Cambridge to take on the Crimson (9–6, 1–1) at Lavietes Pavilion on Friday, followed by a Saturday battle with the Big Green (9–6, 1–1) in Hanover. The team’s defense will once again be tested; Dartmouth leads the league in field goal percentage while Harvard makes up for missed shots by consistently crashing the offensive boards.
“It almost goes without saying,” guard Mary Ann Santucci ’18. “We like to respect all opponents and fear none. But it will be especially sweet to get the win against Harvard. Our shots are going to fall. And we know that. We have all been getting in the gym every single day and getting shots up.”
In the first matchup against Brown on Jan. 12, the Elis won by holding the league’s leading offense — one that currently averages roughly 81 points per game — to a mere 63. In the rematch a week later, Yale erased the deficit and clawed back to force overtime despite finding itself down 15 points with under five minutes to play. The Elis couldn’t seem to find the bottom of the net in the extra period, however, allowing Brown to go on a run which proved insurmountable.
Harvard’s offense is led by guard Katie Benzan. The Wellesley, Massachusetts native leads her team in scoring with 12.6 points per game and leads the Ivy League in three-point field goal percentage, shooting 43.6 percent. Earlier in the season in a loss against Northeastern, she exploded for seven three-pointers.
Friday’s matchup will also see the players with the top two field goal percentages in the league square off. Harvard’s forward Jeannie Boehm shoots 52.0 percent from the field, ranking just below forward Jen Berkowitz ’18, who shoots 57.6 percent. Although the Crimson do not boast a lethal scoring threat — none of their players rank among the conference’s top 10 in points per game — disciplined defense will be a priority for the Bulldogs to prevent any breakout performances.
In the games against the Bears, the team emphasized the importance of rebounding out of its defensive sets. Second-chance points proved a major problem in last week’s game at Pizzitola Sports Center, where the Bulldogs were outscored 16–9 in second efforts. Overall, the Elis lost the rebounding battle 57–50.
Against the Crimson, defensive rebounding will be magnified as Yale’s rival ranks second in the league in offensive rebounding, hauling in 15 per game. Team rebounding will be key; Berkowitz, who leads the team with 8.6 boards per game, will need her teammates to help box out opposing players and crash the glass. If the Elis do not limit the Crimson’s chances on the offensive end, sharpshooters like Benzan could have more opportunities to find the net off kickouts to the perimeter, spelling worries for the Bulldogs.
Despite owning the Ivy League’s fifth-best offense — averaging roughly 66 points per game — the Big Green led the conference in field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage and three-point percentage with 42.9 percent, 77.2 percent and 34.0 percent, respectively. Cy Lippold spearheads the Dartmouth offense this season, averaging 14.3 points, 3.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game.
In Yale’s loss to Brown, the Bulldogs struggled to find a rhythm offensively, especially in the paint where they were outscored 38–26. The Bears, who lead the Ivy League with six blocks per game, caused problems for the Elis down low with strong interior defense.
The Big Green does not present the same challenge that the Bears did on the inside. Dartmouth barely edges Columbia for seventh in the conference in blocked shots, so the Bulldogs should have an easier time maneuvering for close baskets in the matchup. Taking advantage of Berkowitz’s solid postgame and dribble drives could be a recipe for success against a relatively soft post defense from Dartmouth.
This season the Bulldogs look to improve upon a sixth-place finish in last year’s campaign.
“We feel as though we can definitely end up on top if we play together,” guard Roxy Barahman ’20 said. “We have so much talent this year, I know we will be at the Palestra in March.”
The next installment of the historic rivalry will tip off at 6 p.m. on Friday, followed by a contest against the Big Green at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
Jimmy Chen | firstname.lastname@example.org
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