Courtesy of Sam Rubin '95

In its first appearance in the preseason version of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, the Yale women’s basketball team traded blows with Northern Illinois University in a high-scoring battle that ended with the Huskies outlasting the Bulldogs 89–80.

The WNIT first-round matchup was a night of long scoring surges and droughts that was a much closer contest throughout than the scoreline would suggest. In front of a crowd of over 600 fans, the game featured 10 lead changes and nine ties over 40 minutes of play between the Elis (1–1, 0–0 Ivy) and Northern Illinois (1–1, 0–0 Mid-American Conference). Both teams led by as many as 11 points.

“I was proud of our effort throughout the game,” head coach Allison Guth said. “We came out sharing the basketball really well and working the ball inside and out for scoring opportunities. We knew we had a heavy upper hand in the paint and had to be aggressive there.”

After averaging 67.2 points per game last season, slightly above the Ivy League average, the Bulldogs posted their second consecutive 80-point game of the young preseason following a 80–61 win over Colgate in the team’s home opener. Competing with one of the top offenses in the Mid-American Conference, the Bulldogs enjoyed a considerable advantage over NIU inside and scored 38 points in the paint.

Ivy League Player of the Week point guard Roxy Barahman ’20 had a career-high 29 points while forward Megan Gorman ’20 contributed 19 points and 10 rebounds that night. In just her second collegiate game, forward Camilla Emsbo ’22 notched a double-double of her own, posting 21 points and 13 rebounds — earning the Ivy League Rookie of the Week honor.

“We’re a tougher team to defend this year because of our ability to swing the ball and work both in the interior and on the perimeter,” Guth said. “But we need to get to the line more and be smarter in our offensive execution.”

Big nights from Emsbo, Gorman and Barahman were not enough to combat 38 points and 12 boards from NIU’s Courtney Wood, while carelessness on the offensive end translated to poor defense. The Elis committed 15 turnovers to give the Huskies 14 points. Even as the Bulldogs held Northern Illinois to just 33 percent shooting on the night, Yale was unable to execute the pack-line defense while defending in transition.

The Bulldogs’ woes at the charity stripe continued from their home opener against Colgate, where they shot a dismal 48.5 percent from the line. Against Northern Illinois, Yale converted just 13 of 19 free throws while NIU shot nearly 97 percent from the foul line with 29 of the Huskies’ 89 points coming from free throws.

Foul trouble, poor free throw shooting and costly turnovers proved too much to overcome as the momentum shifted in favor of the Huskies, who strung together 14 unanswered points late in the third quarter. Yale briefly reclaimed the lead when forward Ellen Margaret Andrews ’21, a staff reporter for the News, connected on a three-pointer during a 5–0 spurt midway through the fourth. But Yale could not come up with the necessary stops to finish the game, and a 10–2 run by NIU in the final minutes sent Yale to the consolation bracket.

“I think a lot of the starters were pretty gassed and playing on tired legs near the end of the game,” Emsbo said. “There was a pretty big bench point disparity between NIU and us, and I think more even numbers there would have helped finish the game off.”

Sharpshooters Andrews and guard Tori Andrew ’21 were unable to find their rhythm all game. Normally 38 percent from three-point range, Andrew shot 0–5 from beyond the arc against the Huskies. In the first half, the Bulldogs were able to rely on feeding the ball inside and led 47–41 at the break. 21 of Barahman’s points also came in the opening half.

But the Huskies’ defensive adjustments in the second half halted the Bulldogs’ attack and Yale’s confidence took a hit on both ends of the floor. Barahman couldn’t connect on shots that had been falling all game, and the post players’ layups rattled out under pressure from the Huskies’ 2–3 zone defense.

Guth said that the team’s inexperience playing against the zone left her hesitant to take out the veteran group.

“Mistakes were made with fatigue, but we pride ourselves to be in the type of shape to respond when we get exposed by someone with a really hot hand and to get the defensive stops to control the tempo,” Guth said.

With more games to play in the preseason WNIT, Gorman said that the Bulldogs will look to improve their offense against zone defenses. The team will also need more point production from its bench as the Huskies’ second unit outscored the Bulldogs substitutes 15–0.

Yale will face Niagara at Stephen F. Austin State University on Friday. The Purple Eagles are coming off of a 95–35 loss at Iowa State.

Julianna Lai | julianna.lai@yale.edu .