Yale Athletics

After suffering an agonizing defeat in overtime against Dartmouth — a game that saw the Elis blow an 18-point lead — and defeating archrival Harvard at home in a seesaw contest last weekend, the Yale women’s basketball team will look to break its three-way tie for third with Harvard and Dartmouth when its takes on two Ivy League foes with a combined three conference wins this season.

This weekend, the Bulldogs (13–10, 6–4 Ivy) will play host to Cornell (6–17, 2–8) and Columbia (7–18, 1–9) in their final two home contests of the 2017–2018 season while also honoring guard and captain Mary Ann Santucci ’18, guard Tamara Simpson ’18 and forward Jen Berkowitz ’18. Amid Senior Night celebrations, the Elis are in the hunt for a ticket to the Ivy League tournament. After the Big Green stunned the crowd at John J. Lee Amphitheater last weekend, Yale cannot afford to surrender large leads and give up surefire wins, especially against teams that have found little success in conference play this year.

“We know that Dartmouth game should have had a different result, but we have moved on from it and are going to remember that feeling going into this weekend,” guard Roxy Barahman ’20 said. “We can’t take our foot off the gas with any of these teams because we know how close any of these games can be. Closing out fourth quarters will be a big focus for us.”

When Yale and Cornell last met in early February, the Bulldogs jumped out to an early 7–0 lead with the Big Red failing to score for more than two minutes. Unfazed by various Cornell runs, the Elis managed to build a 13-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. Although that lead eroded to just eight points, the Bulldogs went on a 6–1 run to close out the game 65–55. That victory completed a weekend sweep and marked the first time in five years that Yale left Ithaca with a win.

Cornell has struggled offensively, averaging a mere 55.1 points per contest. The Big Red currently shoots a league-worst 35.9 percent from the field and just 63.7 percent from the line this season. The Big Red’s leader on the offensive end and the only player to score in double digits is guard Samantha Widmann.  She averages 15 points — placing her as the Ivy League’s fifth leading scorer thus far — drops 1.7 assists and grabs 6.7 rebounds per game.

“Our team very much understands the importance of protecting home court and positioning ourselves for the possibility of postseason play by earning two wins this weekend,” head coach Allison Guth said.

In the season’s first matchup against Columbia, Yale had trouble finding its rhythm to start after going 1–13 from the field. The second quarter saw the Elis heat up, continuing to feed off the momentum of its 17–2 run. The Bulldogs held a comfortable lead for the rest of the contest, putting the Lions away 73–50 when the final buzzer sounded.

A key to Yale’s success against the Lions was holding guard Camille Zimmerman to just 10 points. The 2017 All-Met Division I Women’s College Basketball Player of the Year leads the Ivy League in points and rebounds per game, with 19.5 and 9.7, respectively. The Bulldogs will be ready to shut her down again, as they fear she will look to avenge her mediocre performance two weeks ago. However, the team has no special recipe to disrupt her game; the Bulldogs will look to continue to play solid, aggressive basketball to limit the opportunities Zimmerman has to score, while also communicating and helping on matchups when able.

Columbia, as a squad, ranks last in the conference in rebounding, blocked shots, assists and steals, which has translated to the Lions’ 1–9 conference record. Columbia’s only taste of victory came against Cornell on Jan. 27.

“It is surreal that Saturday will be the last time I ever play a game in JLA,” Santucci said. “I quite honestly am at a loss for words because playing on that floor has meant so much for the past few years. I think I speak for the whole team in that we are extremely motivated to make it to the palestra. This being my last shot at it — I want it bad. We all do.”

The game against the Big Red tips off at 6 p.m. on Friday and the contest against Columbia will commence at 5 p.m. on Saturday.

Cristofer Zillo | cris.zillo@yale.edu