After taking down Dartmouth and Harvard on the road last weekend, the women’s basketball team now finds itself in sole possession of first place in the Ivy League standings and in control of its own destiny. The two wins extended the Tigers’ (17-6 overall, 8-1 Ivy League) winning streak to seven and avenged their Jan. 31 loss to the Crimson. The team will play its last two conference road games of the season this weekend, taking on Yale on Friday night and Brown on Sunday night.
“In the Ivy League, every game is a playoff game. It’s a 14-game tournament. So we approach each week the same,” head coach Courtney Banghart said when asked if being in first place has changed anything about how the team prepares. “We spend a day learning and building from the previous weekend and then a day to prepare for each opponent in the upcoming weekend. We’ve always said that we play to play each game and do it well, and we’ll see where that puts us at the end.”
The Tigers dominated Yale (12-12, 6-4) 96-75 when the two teams played in Jadwin Gymnasium earlier this season, but the Bulldogs have won two straight games and are now playing at home where they are 4-1 in conference games with their sole loss being by one point to Harvard.
“Yale plays a high pressure style defense, where they are highly accountable to their own player,” Banghart said. “They will look to push the pace on offense and are very comfortable in one vs. one play. On Friday night, we will look to be aggressive on the catch and use active movement off the ball.”
The Tigers will also have to watch out for Yale guard Sarah Halejian who is third in the league in scoring with 16 points per game. The last time the two teams played, Blake Dietrick had a career day, scoring a career-high 28 points on 11-18 shooting.
Brown (8-16, 2-8) has lost four games in a row and has also not beaten the Tigers in the past seven years. Despite being second to last in the Ivy League, the Bears are still a dangerous team thanks largely in part to their three-point shooting. They lead the league in that regard, connecting on almost 38 percent of their shots from downtown and scoring 6.6 such shots per game.
“Brown will try to slow the game down, playing protective and using a lot of zone,” Banghart said. “We will guard the arc all night and try to dictate the tempo of the game.”
The Tigers have been playing very well since their loss to Harvard earlier in the season. One area in particular that has been a huge strength for the Tigers this season has been their shooting. Their 48.1 shooting percentage is the best it has been in over 10 years, even better than it was during each of the past four years in which the team won the Ivy League title.
“Shooting the ball well is a function of sharing the ball, talented offensive players that have bought into our system and a scoring mentality on the catch,” Banghart said. “This is a selfless team, with each player contributing to the final product and each player committed to getting better every week. We are also lucky to have players that can really score. It’s a fun team to coach and to watch play.”
The Tigers will take on the Bulldogs Friday night in New Haven at 7 p.m. They will then travel to Rhode Island on Saturday to take on the Bears at 6 p.m. in their final conference road game of the season.