NEW HAVEN, Conn. – After finishing its non-conference schedule with a 9-4 record, Yale begins Ivy League play with back-to-back road games at Penn (7-4) and Princeton (6-8), the league's top two teams from a year ago, and two teams that have enjoyed unprecedented success in recent years. Yale faces Penn on Friday and then heads to Princeton on Saturday for a stern test to start the new year.
Penn and Princeton dominated Ivy League play last season, with Penn going 13-1 and Princeton going 12-2. No other team finished better than 9-5, and Yale finished sixth at 5-9. However, both Penn and Princeton have gotten off to relatively disappointing starts, and Yale has the best overall record between the three teams so far. Penn and Princeton already kicked off their 2017 Ivy League schedules with a clash against each other last week, which Penn won 62-57.
Last Time Out
Yale earned its 500th win in program history in dramatic fashion. After trailing UC Santa Barbara by 12 points in the third quarter and by 8 points with 4 minutes remaining, Yale stormed back to close out 2016 with a memorable win.
Yale Season Leaders
Junior Jen Berkowitz leads the Bulldogs with 13.2 points per game and 7.1 rebounds per game. She leads the Ivy League by a wide margin with a .589 field goal percentage. Senior Lena Munzer ranks 2nd on the team behind Berkowitz with 12.6 points per game and 6.2 rebounds per game. Junior Tamara Simpson is tied for first in the Ivy League with 2.4 steals per game.
Report on the Penn Quakers
Penn has settled in after a sluggish 3-4 start, and the Quakers enter Friday's meeting on a 4-game winning streak. Penn's defense has been a catalyst for the team thus far, as the Quakers lead the Ivy League with 51.4 points allowed and 6.1 blocks per game this season. Penn also leads the Ivy League in turnover margin, assist/turnover ratio, and offensive rebounds per game.
Penn looks to maintain its stellar form from recent years this season. The Quakers won the Ivy League and made the NCAA Tournament in 2015-16 for the second time in three seasons, and they have won at least 20 games for three straight seasons.
Senior Sydney Stipanovich was named Ivy League Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year last season. Junior Michelle Nwokedi and Stipanovich rank first and second in the Ivy League this season with 10.1 and 9.9 rebounds per game, respectively. They also lead the team in scoring, with Nwokedi averaging 15.5 and Stipanovich averaging 12 points per game. Penn relies heavily on its starters; four Quakers rank in the top 10 in the Ivy League in minutes played per game this season, compared to one Yale player (Lena Munzer).
Report on the Princeton Tigers
Princeton had unprecedented success in the 2014-15 season. The Tigers' 30-0 regular season record was the best in Ivy League history (men's or women's), and it earned head coach Courtney Banghart the 2015 Naismith National Coach of the Year award. Princeton followed up that remarkable season by earning the first-ever at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament for an Ivy League team last season.
Princeton has been well balanced this season, leading the Ivy League in scoring margin (+9.1) with above-average offensive and defensive play. The Tigers have held opponents to a league-best .347 field goal percentage, as well as a league-low .249 mark from 3-point range. They have also distributed the ball well, with a league-high 15.1 assists per game. Freshman Bella Alarie has provided a spark for the Tigers, and she leads the team with 12 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game.
After this weekend, Yale returns to action with a game at Brown on Friday, Jan. 20.
Filed by Andy Dougherty, Yale Sports Publicity