PHILADELPHIA - With an eye towards Saturday's semifinal matchup against Princeton in the Ivy League tournament, the Yale women's basketball team got its first taste of the "Ivy Madness" atmosphere on Friday.
The Bulldogs' day at The Palestra began with a press conference just prior to their 2:00 p.m. open shoot around.
"We are extremely excited to be here in Philly and at The Palestra to compete in the tournament this season," said Allison Guth, Yale's Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Basketball. "Our team has worked really, really hard for this opportunity."
For Yale's seniors, the first appearance in the tournament has a special significance.
"It really gives everyone an extra motive to value every game you play during the season, knowing if you make the top four seeds you're going to the Palestra and competing for a chance to go to the [NCAA] Tournament instead of just having the No. 1 seed go," said senior guard Tamara Simpson, who was named the Ivy League's Defensive Player of the Year for the second season in a row earlier in the week. "It's very exciting, especially for us seniors, to have made it this year."
Yale enters Saturday's game as the underdog -- the No. 4 seed against the No. 1 seed Princeton. Among other things, that means contending with Princeton guard/forward Bella Alarie, who was named the Ivy League Player of the Year earlier this week. She is in the league's top 10 in scoring, rebounding and blocks. The Bulldogs did experience some success against her and the Tigers earlier this season, limiting her to eight points in a 73-59 Yale win at Lee Amphitheater Feb. 2.
"Knowing that she is such a big threat, being on the same page as a team, trying to trap her in the right scenarios and take advantage when we can [will be key]," said senior forward Jen Berkowitz, a first team All-Ivy League honoree this year, when asked what the secret was to defending Alarie. "Also just being able to recover back out -- you could see from our past two games playing them that anyone can produce. Just playing team D and helping each other out is the biggest secret."
After the press conference Guth and Simpson made appearances on "Live from The Palestra", the Ivy League Network show that ran all day long as eight different teams (men's and women's semifinalists) passed through for open shoot arounds.
"Our style of play is high energy, we like to share the ball," Guth told hosts Dei Lynam and Joe Tordy when asked about her team's identity. "We're obviously an attack team -- try to get to the rack, score from beyond the arc as much possible and convert at the free throw line. You can't score it if you don't have it, and so our defensive intensity is where it starts. That's our brand right now -- being unselfish and sharing the basketball."
Simpson, who is second on the Ivy League's all-time steals list, was asked about her ability to create turnovers.
"I think over the years you just get accustomed to the tendencies of the players in the Ivy League," said Simpson. "I just try to make it a mental game and anticipate what the offensive player is thinking."
Following the open shoot around, the Bulldogs also had a closed strategy session nearby before returning to their hotel.
The festivities Friday also included a reception for the Legends of Ivy League Basketball Class of 2018, where Lisa Brummel '81 was among the honorees.
Saturday's game vs. Princeton tips off at 6:00 p.m. and can be seen live on ESPN3. No. 2 seed Penn then plays No. 3 seed Harvard.
On Sunday at 4:00 p.m. on ESPNU, the winners of Saturday's semifinals will play for the league's automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity