WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Elis run hot and cold

After a dominant defensive win over Wagner displayed the effectiveness of the Yale women’s basketball team’s new pack-line defense, the Bulldogs found little success on the offensive end against Providence, shooting less than 24 percent from the field as a team.

Introduced at the start of this season, the Eli’s current defensive system is designed to limit opponents’ production in the paint and force teams to take difficult shots. Against Wagner (1–7, 0–0 Northeast), the Bulldogs (4–4, 0–0, Ivy) limited the Seahawks to 22 points in the paint and less than 27 percent shooting on  the night, hounding them consistently on close-outs and pesky ball pressure to pull out a 74–41 victory. No Seahawks scored in the double-digits. But versus the Friars (4–3, 0–0 Big East), the storyline was reversed. After a three point fourth quarter, Yale left Rhode Island with a 59–42 loss.

“When we aren’t able to get key defensive stops, we’re not confident on the offensive end and we don’t take great shots,” point guard Roxy Barahman ’20 said. “We have to stick with what we do best — our pack-line. We’re still perfecting it and have to work on trying not to get beat baseline.”

As the Elis poured on points against Wagner, Barahman led the way with 22 points, five assists and nine rebounds. Her leadership helped guide a young team currently starting two sophomores and one first year and missing four players due to various injuries. While starting forward and staff reporter for the News Ellen Margaret Andrews ’21 is out for the season with a torn ACL and meniscus, center Jessica Lezon ’20 is expected to return from a foot injury in time for Ivy League play.

In their absence, players have had to adjust to unfamiliar roles. At times, 6-foot-5 forward Camilla Emsbo ’22 has filled in at the small forward position and forward Alex Cade ’21 has stepped up to play some minutes at center.

Against the Seahawks, Cade pitched in 16 points and six rebounds from the bench, a valuable contribution from the Bulldog’s struggling second unit. In the loss to Providence, the Yale bench was outscored 0–22 — a significant disadvantage on a night when Barahman was held to 3–17 from the field for just 15 points. The rest of the starting lineup did not fare any better, shooting a combined 9-for-33.

But even up against the Seahawks who have allowed their opponents to average nearly 72 points per game thus far in the season, the Bulldogs showed offensive weaknesses, especially from long-range. Just 3–18 from beyond the arc, the Bulldogs also gave up possession 17 times. This season, Yale averages the second fewest turnovers per game in the Ivy League with 14.8, but against Providence, the Elis coughed up the ball 21 times.

“We were really undisciplined and making silly passes against a tough Providence pack-line defense similar to ours,” Barahman said. “They made it difficult to drive, and since we weren’t shooting the ball well from the arc, we couldn’t open up the floor more.”

The Elis went into the matchup against Providence looking to continue their defensive success and finally come up with a win against a historically troublesome opponent. Yale has won just once in 12 meetings with Providence, with the last victory coming in the 2006-07 season. While the Bulldogs were able to hold the Friars to under 37 percent shooting, Providence capitalized on the Bulldog’s inability to generate offensive momentum after the Elis missed the first four shots to open the final period. Providence stretched a narrow two-point lead going into the fourth quarter into a 59-42 triumph over the Elis.

Yale had started the game according to plan, with Barahman, Emsbo and forward Megan Gorman ’20 all getting to the line early and often and picking up easy baskets inside. In the first quarter, the Bulldogs limited the Friars’ high scoring guard-duo Jovana Nogic and Maddie Jolin to just two baskets and led 15-7 going into the second period.

“There was an element of fatigue, but we also need to have the confidence to finish games,” Barahman said.

Allowing the Friars to shoot 50 percent from the field in the second quarter, the Bulldogs relinquished an 11-point lead, culminating in consecutive three-pointers from Providence guard Kaela Webb. By the final period, Nogic and Jolin had taken over for the Friars, with Nogic going on a 10-2 run of her own in the final five minutes of the game.

The loss against Providence concluded a seven-game stretch on the road for the Elis who will take to the John J. Lee Amphitheater to play Saint Peter in their first home contest since Nov. 6.

Yale trounced Saint Peter in last year’s preseason matchup, 70-49, but the addition of rookie guard Briyanah Richardson has added new life to the Peahens’ offense.

“It’s a very different team from last year when we blew them out,” Barahman said. “We’re working on getting a lot of shots up against their zone and being confident. Hopefully being on our home court will give us an advantage.”

Julianna Lai | julianna.lai@yale.edu

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