After sweeping last weekend’s matchups and clinching a spot in the 2018 Ivy League Tournament, the Yale women’s basketball team will have one last chance to tune up its game against the top two teams in the league.
The Bulldogs (15–10, 8–4 Ivy) will pack their bags and head to Philadelphia to take on Penn (18–7, 9–3) after going toe-to-toe with the top team in the Ivy League, Princeton (20–5, 10–2). Although these last two games on the schedule do not have any significance for the final standings — since Yale already has clinched a spot in the Ivy League Tournament — the Elis will take advantage of battling the two top seeds in the conference before the madness at the Palestra.
“I’m going to be really on these guys this week about the intensity at which we play Penn and Princeton,” head coach Allison Guth said. “If we want to get to the NCAA Tournament, you got to get through those teams. You have to beat those teams again to go through this. It gives us a nice taste of the Palestra on the road, getting ready for that environment against two really good teams.”
The last time Yale clashed with the defending Ivy League champions, Penn left John J. Lee Amphitheater with a win, outscoring the Elis in every quarter and cruising to a 69–54 victory. Guth blamed the loss on a lack of execution. The Bulldogs simply had no answer for the rebounding prowess of the Quakers, as Penn outrebounded Yale by 16 and added 28 second-chance points.
The Bulldogs will look to box out and prevent center Eleah Parker and forward Michelle Nwokedi from having big nights on the boards. However, they must also focus on shutting down guard Lauren Whitlatch, who had a game-high 18 points last time out against Yale. It is imperative that Guth and her squad get off to a good start offensively, as the Quakers own the best defense in the Ivy League, holding adversaries to just 54.6 points per game on average.
“The keys to beating Penn are locking down their posts and also being able to get out to shooters,” guard and captain Mary Ann Santucci ’18 said. “For Princeton, it’s keeping their key players like [guard] Bella [Alarie] in check and playing together. We have been focusing on being confident in our own game and committing to our defensive scheme.”
At home on Feb. 2, Yale routed Princeton 73–59 in its first victory over the Tigers since 2003. Despite finding themselves down 9–0 less than three minutes into the first frame. The Elis came storming back, though, sparking a run that saw them lead the Tigers 22–16 at the beginning of the second quarter. The Bulldogs were in rhythm for the rest of the contest, answering every Princeton run and suffocating their opponent on the defensive end. The game featured numerous memorable moments, including a buzzer-beating heave from Santucci and four three-pointers from guard Tori Andrew ’21.
Princeton will look for revenge this weekend, led by the 6-foot-4 Alarie. Last season’s Ivy League Rookie of the Year currently averages 13.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.4 blocks per game. Forward Leslie Robinson, who averages 10.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per contest, is also a weapon for the Tigers.
“We are really excited to have the opportunity to play Penn and Princeton right before the Palestra,” guard Roxy Barahman ’20 said. “We were super excited after this weekend, getting the news that we will be playing there, but the work isn’t over yet.”
The Elis will tip off against Penn at 7 p.m. on Friday and face off against Princeton at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
Cristofer Zillo | firstname.lastname@example.org