Throughout its season, the Yale women’s basketball team has relied heavily on its revamped pack-line defense to grind out low-scoring victories. But with a hot-shooting Brown squad rolling into New Haven for the second matchup of the regular season series on Saturday, the Bulldogs will need to clean up their offensive act to give themselves a chance against the Bears’ high-powered backcourt.
The Elis (10–6, 0–1 Ivy) currently boast the league’s fourth-best defense behind first-place Penn, Cornell and Dartmouth, allowing just under 60 points per game. In the opening conference loss, Yale gave up 86 points to Brown (9–8, 1–0) including 56 from opposing guards Shayna Mehta and Justine Gaziano alone. Mehta collected Ivy League Player of the Week honors with her career 37-point night, accompanied by eight steals.
“We knew Shayna Mehta’s a good player, but she had 14 points at the free-throw line, which is an obvious defensive deficiency on our part,” forward Camilla Emsbo ’22 said. “We need to stay in front of her and focus on our screen coverage because getting caught on screens gave her the first step she needed.”
In the first meeting of the home-and-home series, the Bulldogs often found themselves on their heels chasing the Bears back on defense and getting caught in transition. Ruffled on offense — Yale coughed up 20 turnovers that led to 29 points for Brown off of 18 steals — the Bulldogs could not find their composure on the other end. Four players finished with double digits for Brown, compared to just two for Yale.
Solving Yale’s defensive mishaps will have to start with taking care of the basketball and playing a smarter game with the clock and shot selection. The Elis are 4–5 when committing 15 or more turnovers in a game and 6–1 when giving up 14 or fewer. Yale currently averages 62.5 points per game — sixth in the conference — and has consistently struggled with slow offensive starts this season. Against Brown’s league-worst defense in terms of points allowed, the Elis will need to find gaps in the Bears’ 1–3–1 zone and focus on feeding the ball inside, where they won the battle in the paint 38–36.
“Last game we were taking quick, poor shots and weren’t in position to defend in the pack,” head coach Allison Guth said. “We need to be sharp with passing and get the ball early to Camilla to score.”
Emsbo had a career night of her own in Providence and was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week for the fourth time this season. She notched her fifth double-double of her young career in the Ivy opener, scoring a career-high 26 points and leading the team with 10 rebounds and three blocks. Emsbo was the only consistent offensive presence for the Bulldogs in the first leg of the series, as league-scoring leader and point guard Roxy Barahman ’20 went cold shooting 3–13. In last week’s match, a single touch from the post players often opened up the floor for everyone else.
“Having the mindset that we are better than them is not good enough, we still have to prove that,” Barahman said. “We have to come in with more confidence shooting the ball, especially from behind the arc as they will most likely zone us again, and just move the basketball to get those best looks early in the game.”
Saturday will be just the fourth home game of the season for Yale. The Bulldogs have played 13 games on the road since the beginning of November and will welcome the chance to play in front of a home crowd on Youth Day at John J. Lee Amphitheater. The Elis are currently 3–0 at home this season, averaging 70 points per contest.
Julianna Lai | firstname.lastname@example.org .