Sam Rubin

After splitting contests against Cornell and Columbia last weekend, the Elis have found themselves in a tie for third in the Ivy League. As the Bulldogs face off against the league’s top two teams, they will be looking to score a win and solidify their postseason chances.

The Yale women’s basketball team (16–7, 6–4 Ivy) got off to a 5–1 start in Ivy play, but has since dropped three of its last four games. This weekend, Yale travels to Penn (17–6, 7–3) and No. 23 Princeton (22–1, 10–0) — the two teams ahead of the Elis in the league standings. The Tigers have won 18 straight and have defeated every Ivy opponent by at least 14 points, including Yale who they defeated 55–39 two weeks ago. The Quakers are also finding success this season. After winning the Ancient Eight alongside Princeton last year, Penn has once again risen to the top of the league. However, the Blue and White lost by just two points in the teams’ first meeting; this weekend’s contest provides the Elis with an opportunity to seek revenge and match Penn in the standings.

“The first two games were very close, and we know these are the top teams in our league,” guard Roxy Barahman ’20 said. “That being said, we know we can play with them, and focusing on limiting our turnovers and playing with confidence will prove pivotal to coming out on top.”

On Tuesday, Princeton faced off against Penn in a bout of the two top teams. Despite Penn’s talent, Princeton flexed its offensive muscle in an 80–44 rout of the Quakers. Forward Bella Alarie, the league’s second highest scorer, led the Tigers with 21 points. Princeton also sunk 11 of 22 shots from beyond the arc, far above its average of 33 percent.

The only bright spot for Penn was guard Kayla Padilla’s play. Padilla, who is the one player above Alarie in scoring, netted 24 points. With 18.3 points per game, Padilla accounts for the majority of the Quakers’ offense — shutting her down will be paramount when the Elis meet the Philly team this weekend.

In Yale’s first meeting against Princeton, the Elis jumped out to an early lead. However, foul trouble limited the playing time of Yale’s top scorers Barahman and forward Camilla Emsbo ’22. Barahman and Emsbo average 16.6 and 15.8 points per game, respectively. Emsbo also sports the highest field goal percentage in the Ivy League, sinking 57.9 percent of all attempts. However, against Princeton, the duo was held to a combined 23 points.

Although Emsbo, along with forward Alex Cade ’21, successfully limited Alarie to nine points, guard Carlie Littlefield dissected the Elis with her sharp shooting, especially in the fourth quarter. Littlefield’s 20 points helped the Tigers solidify their 16-point win.

One positive from the teams’ first meeting was the Elis’ defense. The Blue and White held Princeton to 55 points – its lowest point total of the season. If the Bulldogs can replicate this strong defensive performance and improve upon its offensive play, they will have an opportunity to upset a nationally ranked opponent.

“We’re looking to be very intentional with our passes by treating every possession as though it’s our last, while still playing calm and collected,” Cade said.

In the home game against Penn two weeks ago, Yale headed into the half with a 32–27 lead, with 14 points from Barahman alone. However, the Quakers found late momentum and limited the Elis to 19 points in the second half. A 15–1 run by Penn allowed it to take a 44–40 lead. In the final minutes, the Quakers shut down attempts at a late rally by the Bulldogs. Penn took the game, edging out Yale 53–51.

Penn has not lost more than three Ivy League games since the 2012-13 season. On Friday, Yale will have the chance to deliver Penn a fourth loss for the first time in seven years on the Quaker’s own court. Yale has already tallied nine wins on the road this season, tied for second most away game wins in a season since 1993-94.

With only two weekends of play remaining until the Ancient Eight tournament, the teams are closely watching the League standings. Only four teams will qualify, and unbeaten Princeton has already secured its spot. Moreover, one more win will guarantee the Tigers at least a share of the Ivy League title. Penn places a distant second, will only a one-game lead over the Elis.

The Bulldogs are currently tied with Columbia for third in the League, with Harvard trailing by a single win. Neither the Lions nor the Elis have beaten Princeton or Penn this season, but Columbia did secure a win over Harvard. A victory this weekend would help propel the Bulldogs ahead of a tightening field of competitors.

“Over the past week we’ve reflected on both mistakes we made in individual plays and actions, as well as in our whole mental approach to each game,” guard Ellen Margaret Andrews ’21 said. “For the next two games, we’re focused on playing with no fear and a full attentiveness to detail. If we do those things, we know we will be in a position to win both games.”

In the last two away games before the tournament, the Bulldogs will take on Penn Friday at 7 p.m. in Philadelphia before playing Princeton Saturday at 5 p.m. Both games are available to stream on ESPN+.

Drew Beckmen | drew.beckmen@yale.edu and
Sophie Kane | sophie.kane@yale.edu