As temperatures fall and Ivy madness heats up, the Yale women’s basketball team will look to cool the Harvard’s hot start to conference play when the two rivals face off Friday in the first of back-to-back games for the Elis this weekend in New Haven. The Bulldogs will then host Dartmouth on Saturday, hoping to extend their 4–0 record at John J. Lee Amphitheater this season and protect home territory.
Yale (11–6, 1–1 Ivy) faces a Harvard side (9–6, 2–0) currently riding a five-game winning streak and toting the only undefeated record in conference play. The Crimson boast the league’s highest field-goal percentage and second-best field-goal percentage defense. In a pair of wins over Dartmouth (7–8, 0–2), the Crimson held the Big Green to an average of under 34 percent from the field, including a scoreless opening quarter in the first game. On offense, Harvard had four players in double-digits in the second game of the series sweep over Dartmouth, led by guard Katie Benzan with 22 points. Meanwhile, Crimson forward Jadyn Bush tallied her eighth double-double of the season, recording 16 points and 11 boards.
“The most special thing that Harvard provides in how they score is that you can’t hone in on just one player,” the Bulldogs’ head coach Allison Guth said. “The motor behind the whole operation is Katie Benzan, arguably one of the toughest guards we’ll face in and out of conference with her unbelievable scoring ability beyond the arc. We really want to pressure Benzan and make her feel uncomfortable.”
The Crimson have three players shooting over 35 percent from long-range, with Benzan averaging the most three-pointers per game in the league with 3.7. Smoked by Bears guards Shayna Mehta, Justine Gaziano and Taylor Will from beyond the arc in their last two games against Brown, the Bulldogs will need to limit their turnovers so that they can settle into their pack defense and close the gaps against Harvard’s shooters.
The Bulldogs have shot at just 39.5 percent and have scored only 63.8 points per game this season, but through four games at home, they have averaged over 73 points. Rebounding has been the key to generating offense for the Bulldogs, who are the league’s leaders on the boards.
In last Saturday’s win against the Bears, the Bulldogs came away with a 54–35 advantage on the glass and a dominating 42–26 performance in the paint. This weekend, the Bulldogs will focus again on exposing their opponents on the inside, making sure to get their post players early touches for high-percentage shots and open the floor for the guards. Shooting over 52 percent from the field, forward Camilla Emsbo ’22 is first in the conference and 59th in the nation in field goal percentage. Forward Alex Cade ’21 is hitting around 49 percent of her shots this season, and forward Alexandra Maund ’19 has hit seven of ten shots in league play.
“[Harvard] is similar to Brown with their shooters, so we’re going to pound it in the paint again and get our kicks out,” Cade said. “We’ve been working a lot on crashing the boards and anticipating long rebounds.”
The visitors coming to town this weekend will have to stop point guard Roxy Barahman ’20, the reigning Ivy League Player of the Week, who had a career-high 31-point performance in last Saturday’s 84-72 win over Brown. Averaging 20.1 points per game, Barahman is 21st in the nation and first in the league in points per game.
“We feel as though we are facing one of the best teams in the league in Harvard with the confidence they’re playing with right now and how they’re scoring the ball,” Guth said. “In Dartmouth, we’re playing one of the best-coached teams, and we’re really going to have to focus on the little things to be successful. Defending together for forty minutes both nights will be a big challenge against the three-point shooters on either team.”
Yale split both series with Harvard and Dartmouth in the 2017-2018 season.
Julianna Lai | firstname.lastname@example.org .