The Yale women’s basketball team is off to its best start in program history. With a six-game win streak in tow, the Bulldogs head to the Empire State to face Ivy League foes Columbia and Cornell.
Yale (12–3, 2–0 Ivy) defeated Brown twice in the opening weeks of Ivy play, making the Bulldogs the only 2–0 team in the Ancient Eight. Columbia (10–5, 1–1) enters the contest with a seven-game winning streak at home and a .500 conference record after splitting its pair of games against Cornell (8–6, 1–1). The Bulldogs lead the Ivy League in offensive production with 74.4 points per game, but the Lions and are not far behind with 70.5. Featuring two of the most productive offenses in the league, this matchup will likely come down to the defensive battle. Going into its first of six back-to-back two-game weekends, the Bulldogs will face Cornell in Ithaca just a day after battling the Lions in the Big Apple.
“We are excited to build on the successes we had against Brown, but [we] are also aware that these wins mean nothing when the game starts Friday night,” captain and forward Megan Gorman ’20 said. “Every team in the Ivy is talented this year, which means that every game is going to be a dog fight.”
The Elis have entered uncharted territory this season. With their best start ever and their first six-game winning streak since 2016, they enter both contests with momentum and confidence. After opening Ivy play with a 79–72 win over Brown, the Blue and White improved its defense and held the Bears to just 40 points in the team’s second meeting a week later. If Yale can sustain its offensive production and replicate the defensive performance it put on at Brown last week, the Elis will put themselves in a position to win.
The Bulldogs have three players averaging double digits this season. Guard Roxy Barahman ’20, forward Camilla Emsbo ’22 and guard Ellen Margaret Andrews ’21 are averaging 16.1, 15.0 and 14.9 points per game respectively. Emsbo also averages 8.7 rebounds per game, and she has already tallied five double-doubles this season.
Still, the Lions have some offensive firepower of their own. First-year guard Abbey Hsu has injected new life into a Lions squad that finished 4–10 in the Ancient Eight last year. With 13.2 points per game, Hsu leads the Lions in scoring. She is also shooting .408 from three-point range. Yale, however, leads the Ivy League in overall shooting percentage from long range, sinking over 35 percent of its attempts.
“We are definitely focused on building upon our execution,” Andrews said. “Columbia is an extraordinarily talented and well-coached team, so it’s going to be a real challenge to take them down on their home court. But it’s a challenge that we’re prepared for and looking forward to facing.”
One potential weakness that remains in the Elis’ game is defense — Yale currently ranks last in the league in opponent field goal percentage. The Bulldogs’ opponents have netted over 40 percent of their shots, while the Lions have held opponents to 37.6 percent from the field.
But the Blue and White’s most recent game against Brown illustrated the team’s ability to put together a complete defensive performance. By the end of the first quarter, the Bulldogs had allowed just five points, and they did not allow more than 13 points in a single quarter.
In addition to Hsu, the Lions are led by sophomore forward Sienna Durr and senior guard Janiya Clemmons. The guard duo of Clemmons and Hsu have combined for 55 steals this season. Durr leads the team in rebounding with 5.5 per game.
On Saturday Yale will take on Cornell who is looking to add some momentum to their season. The Big Red has failed to record two consecutive wins since November, though hopes are high after their recent 80–77 overtime victory against Columbia.
This will by no means be an easy fight for the Bulldogs given their 5–6 away record against Cornell in the past 10 seasons. In addition, it was the Big Red who bumped the Elis out of a spot in the Ivy Tournament last season after sweeping both games against Yale. A defeat of Cornell in Ithaca would further affirm the historic nature of this season for Yale women’s basketball.
“We know these two games are going to be pivotal wins for us down the stretch, so we’re focused on the details of our scout and playing to our strengths,” guard Tori Andrew ’21 said.
The Bulldogs face off against Columbia Friday at 7 p.m. in New York City before taking on Cornell in Ithaca Saturday at 5 p.m.. Both games can be streamed live on ESPN+.
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