HANOVER, N.H. – The Yale women's basketball team knew that it had to turn up the defensive intensity Saturday at Dartmouth, coming off a disappointing effort at Harvard Friday in which the Bulldogs allowed 97 points.
Yale -- facing a Dartmouth team that entered the weekend leading the Ivy League in shooting percentage, three-point shooting percentage and free throw shooting percentage -- delivered its best defensive effort of the season, holding the Big Green to 39 points.
So even though Yale's potent offense was held to its second-lowest point total of the season, the Bulldogs still cruised to a 57-39 win that keeps them in the thick of the race for one of the four spots in the Ivy League Tournament.
"Tonight you saw a team with a lot of heart and a lot of gumption dig deep to respond after last night," said Allison Guth, Yale's Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Basketball. "We decided today we wanted to get back to defending the half-court harder. Our kids took ownership of that."
Yale (9-8, 2-2 Ivy League) clamped down defensively from the get-go; Dartmouth was stuck at just two points nearly six minutes into the game, and ended the first quarter with only nine points. The Big Green eventually rallied to tie the game 14-14 early in the second, but senior guard Tamara Simpson sparked a 14-5 Yale run to end the quarter with a steal and a layup at the 6:37 mark. Ironically on a night where Yale excelled defensively, that was the only steal of the night for Simpson, who leads the Ivy League in steals per game (4.6).
"Tamara gets a lot of those steals when we ask her to anticipate," said Guth. "Today we asked her to lock down and be a great help defender. As a team we still forced 19 turnovers, but they happened out of pressure in the half-court [instead of the full-court press]."
Simpson had 11 points by halftime as the Bulldogs led 28-19. The Bulldogs also held a 26-14 edge in rebounds at the break thanks largely to 10 from sophomore forward Megan Gorman.
"I'm so proud of that kid," said Guth of Gorman. "Tonight she came out confident and aggressive. She did all the little things -- boxing out, creating second-chance opportunities. She also made some heady and smart defensive plays, and she can be a mismatch offensively."
The third quarter turned into the Ellen Margaret Andrews show. The first-year forward hit a pair of three-pointers and completed a three-point play in the span of just over three minutes, helping turn a 30-21 lead into a 41-24 lead. Dartmouth tacked on a layup and a jumper near the end of the quarter, but the Bulldogs still held a commanding 41-28 advantage heading into the final quarter.
After senior forward Jen Berkowitz scored the first points of the final quarter, the Bulldogs never let their lead dip below 15. Sophomore guard Roxy Barahman helped put the game out of reach with a three-point play with 4:50 left that made the score 55-23, the Bulldogs' largest lead. Barahman scored two more with 3:28 to play, finishing with a game-high 19 points and a nifty 9-for-17 shooting performance. But in the end it was her defensive effort that earned notice from her coach.
"Roxy consistently uses her offensive skill set to help our team," said Guth. "Her having the same passion for defense made the difference tonight. She locked in on Cy Lippold [Dartmouth's leading scorer, who was held to just seven points] and completely committed to guarding her all over the court from the moment they shook hands at the start of the game."
Andrews and Simpson scored 13 each, with Simpson shooting 6-for-11.
Gorman finished with 16 rebounds, a career high, as the Bulldogs outrebounded the Big Green 47-33. Dartmouth, which came into the game shooting .429, shot just .293 Saturday night. The Big Green also shot well below its average from three-point range (.340 entering the day; .250 Saturday). And for good measure, Dartmouth also missed all five of its free throw attempts after coming into the day shooting .772 from the charity stripe.
"Dartmouth is extremely well-coached," said Guth. "They have all the pieces -- a talented point guard, a couple three-point threats, and a post that can score inside and out. We were able to be very scout-aware and driven in terms of the sets they were running"
The last time Yale held an opponent under 40 points was a 48-39 win at Brown Jan. 22, 2016. This loss was just the second home loss of the season for the Big Green, who are 7-2 at Leede Arena.
Yale returns home to face Princeton Friday at 6:00 p.m. The Tigers, at 3-0, are the lone unbeaten team in the league. The Bulldogs and Dartmouth (10-7, 2-2) are currently tied for fourth.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity