Sam Rubin

In a showdown between the Ivy League’s best offense and one of the league’s top defenses, the Brown and Yale women’s basketball teams will face off early Friday morning at the Pizzitola Sports Center to open their regular seasons.

The road-tested Bulldogs (10-5, 0-0 Ivy League) begin the Ivy slate away, where their preseason traveling experience will be valuable. The Elis have only played two home games since Nov. 7 and are riding a five-game winning streak into their first league matchup. In the final 10 games of the preseason, they have held their opponents to a 34.5 percent shooting from the field, good for second in the league behind Penn (9–3, 1–0).

“We have been working a lot on our transition defense, so we can stop those two early,” point guard Roxy Barahman ’20 said. “[On offense] our ability to score from all positions on the floor is something we are looking to emphasize more. That comes with increasing our assists per game and getting more of us averaging double figures.”

The Elis’ pack-line strategy will need to contain the league’s current hottest offense which is led by veteran All-Ivy guard duo Justine Gaziano and Shayna Mehta — who are second and third on the Ivy League scoring leaderboard respectively. Last season, the Bears went 3–11 in the Ivy League, coming in a tie for sixth. Returning all but one of its 2017–18 members, the Brown team tops the league averaging 74.5 points per game going into league play.

With four players averaging double-digits in scoring, Yale will have to find a way to close out the Bears’ shooters. Gaziano is fourth in the league from range, shooting over 37 percent from three, and was awarded Ivy League Player of the Week in the first week of December. Her teammate, forward Erika Steeves, received the honor the following week.

The squad from New Haven features three of last season’s starting five that went 8–6 in the league and finished in fourth place. While the Bulldogs’ defense has been stifling — keeping their opponents to under 52 points in the month of December — they have struggled to score. While the Elis have the league-worst 38.6 percent shooting from the field, the Bears have the league-worst defense — an average of 74.5 points allowed. The Yale team will need to push the ball in transition and battle in the post against Brown in order to be successful in their scoring endeavors.

Yale’s offense is led by Barahman, who is leading all Ivy League scorers with 20.1 points per game over 15 starts, and forward Camilla Emsbo ’22, who is 13th among points leaders, chipping in with 11.1 points per game. Emsbo’s 8.9 rebounds per game currently rank second in the league, while forward Megan Gorman ’20 is only slightly behind with 8.7. Barahman was chosen as the Ivy League Player of the Week in the opening week, and Emsbo is a three-time Ivy League Rookie of the Week winner thus far in the season.

“Roxy does so much for us. It’s hard to capture fully her impact,” Gorman said. “She continually produces on both ends of the floor. Beyond that, her competitiveness drives not only her, but our whole squad every day.”

Since Dec. 8, the Ivy League has fought its way back into the national conversation with victories over three 2018 NCAA Tournament teams. Princeton dominated Quinnipiac, 54–42, Harvard outlasted No. 16 Cal and Columbia picked up a 72–68 road win against Mercer.

The Ivy League ranks fourth in the country in percentage of teams at .500 or above, trailing only the ACC (93.3 percent), Mid-American (91.7 percent), Big 12 (90.0 percent) and Big East (90.0 percent), and coming in ahead of the Big Ten (85.7 percent), Pac-12 (83.3 percent) and SEC (78.6 percent).

The top four teams in the regular season standings qualify for the 2019 Ivy League Tournament, which will take place at Lee Amphitheater on Mar. 16 and 17.

Julianna Lai | julianna.lee@yale.edu