Unable to defend home court against Penn after a huge statement win over Princeton, the Yale women’s basketball team will look to tune up its play on both sides of the ball against two Ivy foes that have a combined total of two conference wins so far this season.
This weekend, the Elis (10–9, 3–3 Ivy) will pack their bags and head to New York to take on Columbia (7–14, 1–5) and Cornell (5–14, 1–5) after splitting last weekend’s two-game homestand. The Lions and the Big Red each own one conference win in the 2017–18 season, both from matchups against each other. Columbia and Cornell both struggle on offense; the Lions and the Big Red rank seventh and eighth in the conference in terms of scoring, respectively. The Lions have also found it difficult to prevent opponents from putting the ball in the hoop. They give up 68.8 points per game, which ranks second-worst in the Ivy League. The Big Red, meanwhile, have been ice-cold with the ball, shooting a league-worst 35.9 percent from the field this season.
“Columbia and Cornell are going to zone us up, see if we can shoot the ball the way that we did against Princeton,” head coach Allison Guth said. “We need to get players like [Tori Andrew ’21] on the court for more minutes than 15 because she can really light ’em up. Defensively, we’ll get back to the drawing board this week, get locked in and hopefully make some good defensive adjustments by just executing.”
Last weekend, the Bulldogs split their third two-game Ivy League weekend in a row. Friday’s game saw Yale hold Princeton to just 59 points. However, its defense faltered on Saturday, as Penn waltzed out of New Haven with a 69–54 win. The Elis now have an excellent opportunity to string together some consistency against the two Ivy League bottom-feeders.
The major key to Friday’s game against Columbia will be shutting down first team All-Ivy guard Camille Zimmerman. The Tempe, Arizona native is a major offensive threat and leads the Ivy League in scoring with 20.7 points per game. She is also a proven rebounding threat, coming in second in the conference with 8.9 rebounds per game.
Zimmerman is coming off a record-breaking junior year in which she led the Ivy League in seven categories, including total points, total rebounds and double doubles. The second-highest leading scorer for the Lions is guard Riley Casey with 10.3 points per game.
“We need to lock down on their key players,” guard Roxy Barahman ’20 said. “For Columbia, that’s Zimmerman and Casey. If we play good man-to-man defense, we should be able to get both wins.”
However, the Bulldogs will enter with the possibility of imposing their will in the paint, as the Lions rank last in the league with a mere 2.24 blocks per contest. Forward Jen Berkowitz ’18, Yale’s top inside presence, is second on the team with 14.9 points per game.
After coming up short in five of its six Ivy League contests, the Big Red edged Columbia 57–47 for its only win thus far in conference play. Cornell’s leading scorer, guard Samantha Widmann, comes into Saturday’s game averaging 15.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. However, she has performed admirably in big games against Colgate, Canisius and Oakland, in which she recorded 25, 27 and 28 points respectively. Containing Widmann — the team’s only player to consistently score in double figures — will be the Bulldogs’ top priority against Cornell. The Big Red’s second leading scorer, forward Samantha Clement, comes in averaging 8.8 points per contest.
In the Bulldogs’ loss against Penn, the most notable stat was the rebounding margin, which favored the Quakers, 48–32. Penn dominated the glass with 22 offensive rebounds that led to a 28–11 advantage in second-chance points against the Elis. Even in the exhilarating victory against Princeton, the Bulldogs lost the rebounding battle 37–35.
Yale will look to attack the boards better this weekend to create its own opportunities at the basket, especially against weaker rebounding teams such as Columbia and Cornell. The Lions grab the fewest rebounds overall in the conference, averaging a lowly 34.2 boards per game. Meanwhile, the Big Red rank last in the league in defensive rebounding, hauling down a mere 22.4 boards after an opponent’s miss. Against teams that have struggled securing rebounds, the Bulldogs can avenge their subpar performances on the glass last weekend.
“It definitely heats us up a bit more knowing we have to defend home court, but I think we make it a point to play with the same intensity at home or away,” Andrew said.
The game against Columbia will tip off at 7 p.m. on Friday, while the contest against Cornell will commence at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
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