NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The reigning Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year can score, too. Senior guard Tamara Simpson opened the 2017-18 season with a 21 point night Friday as the Yale women's basketball team topped LIU Brooklyn 62-51 at Lee Amphitheater in Payne Whitney Gym. Simpson shot 50 percent from the field, connecting on six of 12 shots -- including a critical three-pointer with 5:29 to play, after the Blackbirds had cut Yale's lead to five. Senior forward Jen Berkowitz added 13 points and seven rebounds.
"Tamara's phenomenal," said Allison Guth, Yale's Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Basketball. "She converts a lot of her points from her defensive intensity. The more versatile she is, the tougher she is for our opponents to scout."
Yale (1-0, 0-0 Ivy League) made the most of the Blackbirds' miscues -- the Bulldogs got 22 points off 27 LIU turnovers, including 13 in the first quarter as Yale built a 19-13 lead.
"Both teams were working through some excitement and some energy," said Guth. "We fully anticipated that in the first game we would have some jitters."
Guth pointed to sophomore guard Roxy Barahman as a key contributor in the early going. Barahman earned her second career start Friday, and wound up leading the team with eight rebounds -- all on the defensive end.
"Roxy started the game really well for us in terms of her defensive intensity," said Guth.
In addition to Berkowitz, sophomore forward Megan Gorman also contributed seven rebounds (and eight points), and Simpson added five. Simpson also continued adding to her own school career record for steals, totaling a team-high four on Friday and reminding everyone of the skill that helped her earn that Ivy Defensive Player of the Year honor last season.
LIU (0-1, 0-0 NEC) was led by 13 points from guard Denisha Petty-Evans. The Blackbirds trailed by seven in the first quarter after a late layup by first-year forward Ellen Margaret Andrews, and fell behind by 12 in the second quarter after a layup by first-year forward Alex Cade, but remained within striking distance of the Bulldogs for most of the rest of the game.
"Give credit to LIU Brooklyn," said Guth. "They came after us hard. They ran a completely different offense (from last year, when the Bulldogs beat the Blackbirds 75-44)."
Simpson's three-pointer with 5:29 left was the start of an 11-5 run for Yale that put the game out of reach. The Bulldogs are now 33-19 at Lee Amphitheater since the start of the 2014-15 season.
Andrews (six points, four rebounds), Cade (four points) and first-year guard Tori Andrew (four points, a team-high four assists) all made their Yale debuts Friday night. The Bulldogs return to action Monday, hosting Colgate.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity