1. Princeton (10-3)
Win – vs UMBC, 77-40
Even with the starters only playing half a game, Princeton dominated UMBC for its fourth straight victory. The Tigers, who sit at No. 6 in the College Insider Top 25 Mid-Major poll, finished one of the nation’s hardest nonconference schedules with signature wins over Chattanooga, Quinnipiac and Seton Hall, as well as a near upset of Top 25 Villanova.
The team is averaging 64.1 points and 6.2 threes a game with four players scoring between 9.2 and 15.5 points. Bella Alarie is sixth in the conference at 15.5 points per game and shoots just under 50 percent. First-year Carlie Littlefield has started every game at the point guard spot, averaging 9.7 points and 3.1 assists per game. She is averaging 3.9 turnovers per contest, but only 2.6 in her last five games.
While the Tigers’ offense is solid, if not dominant, their defense is most impressive. Over the last four games, they have held opponents to 45 points on 36 percent shooting. For the season, opponents are only scoring 55.5 points a game and averaging 23.8 threes on 28.3 percent outside shooting. They also lead the conference with a 71.4 percent defensive rebounding rate and are outrebounding teams by 6.2 percent.
2. Brown (11-1)
Win – at Howard, 85-81 (OT)
The Bears had a much more difficult time than expected in securing its ninth straight win. Down 7 with 1:29 left in the fourth quarter, Brown held Howard without a basket as it closed out regulation on a 10-3 run. In overtime, the Bison had an 81-78 advantage with 2:25 remaining, but they would not score another basket as Brown scored the game’s last seven points. Playing without Taylor Will, Brown allowed the 4-9 Bison to go 13-for-28 (46 percent) from three while the Bears were only able to hit 21 of 62 (34 percent) from inside the arch.
With one game left before starting Ivy play against Yale on the 12th, the Brown offense is its calling card. They are leading the league in points (80.8), made threes (9.0), and made free throws (11.8), while second in field goal (42.4 percent) and three point (33.0 percent) shooting. For a fast paced team, they are quite disciplined, averaging a league best 16.3 assists and second best 13.8 turnovers. Shayna Mehta, Justine Gaziano and Will are second, third and fourth in league scoring with 19.7, 19.0 and 17.0 points respectively.
Defensively, the Bears average 5.9 blocks, 16.6 forced turnovers and 8.0 steals a game. They do a good job, as well, in holding opponents to 37.4 percent shooting. While their interior defense can block, they are not as strong in rebounding, where they only hold a 0.3 percent advantage over opponents.
Brown allows the most points in the league (68.8), but it has been offset by their elite offense. Without Will, a 5′ 11″ wing possibly lost to a season-ending injury, the Bears still have enough firepower to make the Ivy Tournament. However, the growth of 6′ 0″ first-year guard McKenna Dale, may go a long way towards determining if Brown can make it to the NCAA or NIT Tournaments in March.
3. Penn (6-4)
Win – vs VCU, 82-52 (at NJIT Highlanders Christmas Tournament)
Win – at NJIT, 77-38 (at NJIT Highlanders Christmas Tournament)
Playing against much weaker teams the last few weeks, the Quakers head into its Ivy opener against Princeton with a four game win streak, as well as greater confidence on both sides of the ball. For the year, Penn is scoring 66.0 points a game and allowing 58.6. Over its last three games, facing teams with a combined 6-31 record, the Red and Blue averaged 81.0 points and allowed only 52.0.
In nonconference play, Penn has done most of its damage from beyond the arc. While only seventh in the league in overall shooting (37.4 percent), they are averaging 8.0 made threes at a 34.5 percent rate. Their top outside shooters, Lauren Whitlatch, Katie Kinum and Beth Brzozowski, are hitting threes at 36.1, 47.1 and 43.8 percent, respectively. If starter Ashley Russell, who injured her hand early in the VCU game, misses extended time, Penn will need to give more minutes to Kinum and Brzozowski, making them an even stronger three-point team.
After some tentative games in November, first-year forward Eleah Parker has gained tremendous confidence in the second month of the season. She is averaging 10.8 points and 6.5 rebounds for the year, has six straight double-digit games and earned three consecutive Ivy Rookie of the Week awards. Parker’s quick maturation has also improved her front court play with reigning Player of the Year Michelle Nwokedi (12.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.7 blocks). With only 10 games played, their numbers should continue to improve as they get more experience playing together.
4. Harvard (7-5)
Win – vs Stony Brook, 60-53
Finding itself down 47-40 to Stony Brook with 8:18 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Crimson went on a 14-0 run over the next 5:13. The Seawolves cut the deficit to one with 1:54 left, but Harvard did not allow them to score the rest of the way as they won by seven. With the win, the Crimson improved to 4-0 at home.
Harvard’s success comes from its field goal defense, rebounding and three point shooting. They are holding opponents to a league-low 37.2 shooting, including 29.0 percent from three. The Crimson have an offensive rebounding rate of 36.5 percent with Taylor Rooks, Jeannie Boehm and Jadyn Bush all in the conference’s top 15. On offense, they are third in the league with 7.9 made threes a game, although they are only shooting at a 31.6 percent rate. While Katie Benzan is second in the league hitting 3.2 threes a game at 42 percent, they have only one other player who averages more than one three a game and shoots over 30 percent. Greater accuracy from the outside will certainly help the Crimson, as they are 7-0 when hitting 29 percent or more from beyond the arc and 0-5 when held below that number.
5. Yale (7-6)
Loss – vs UC Davis , 71-61 (at Fordham Holiday Classic)
Loss – vs Hartford, 78-70 (at Fordham Holiday Classic)
The Bulldogs lost two close games at the Fordham Holiday Classic, the first against a UC Davis team that presently No. 12 in the College Insider Mid-Major Top 25. A highlight for Yale was the play of senior center Jen Berkowitz, who totaled 34 points and 20 rebounds in the two games, while holding UC Davis’ star center Morgan Bertsch to a season-low 10 points.
Yale’s calling card continues to be its pressure defense, which finds the team 15th in the nation in forced turnovers (22.2) and 21st in steals (11.1). However, their field goal defense is at the bottom of the league, allowing teams to shoot 43.5 overall and 35.3 from three. On offense, the team is putting up 70.1 points a game on the strength of its two-point effort (50 percent shooting, accounting for 58 percent of team’s points). Unfortunately for a team with a “Three or Key” philosophy, the team continues to struggle from downtown, hitting only 6.3 a game at a 27.1 rate.
While the Bulldogs have shown improvement this season, especially winning at TCU and playing competitive games against Indiana, UC-Davis and Kansas, they will need a stronger effort from outside if they want to defeat the more disciplined teams in the Ivy’s upper division.
6. Dartmouth (8-5)
Loss – at Albany, 76-61
Loss – at Binghamton, 80-64
The Big Green struggled on both ends of the court against two of the top teams in the America East conference. The one bright spot was the return of forward Isalys Quinones, who came off the bench against Albany and started the next day against the Bearcats.
Even with this recent offensive decline, the Green & White are still one of the league’s best shooting teams at 45.2 percent overall, 48.3 from two, 32.9 from three and 75.9 from the free throw line. A major offensive concern for Dartmouth, though, is their third quarter production. They are even with opponents in the first quarter, plus-15 in the second and plus-41 in the fourth quarter, but they are minus-57 in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Defensively, they are not the deepest or strongest in the league, but they have managed to generally stay even with their opponents through the non-conference schedule. If the team wants to avoid wearing down as the season progresses, they will need to hold onto the ball better (-30 turnovers and – 28 steals) and get more production from its bench.
7. Columbia (6-9)
Loss – at Houston, 77-53
Loss – at Rice, 67-44
Loss – at Hampton, 60-58
Two blowout loses to major conference powers was not unexpected, but a tough two point loss to 3-9 Hampton was a disappointing end to the nonconference schedule. The Pirates only shot 28 percent on the night, but managed to take 21 more shots than the Lions due to 14 steals and 24 forced turnovers. Senior Camille Zimmerman’s 22 points (and 12 rebounds) give her 1,708 for her career, 13th on the all-time Ivy scoring list.
The Lions have Zimmerman, the league’s leading scorer, and excellent three point defense (allow 5.0 threes a game at a 27.9 percent rate). Everything else is a work in progress. First-year guard Riley Casey (15 starts, 10 points and 2.5 assists) and forward Madison Pack (12 starts, 6.1 points and 4.5 rebounds) will get more experience as the team enters Ivy play and use that as a springboard for the program’s future.
8. Cornell (4-9)
Loss – at New Hampshire, 48-45
Win – vs UMass-Lowell, 71-53
Win – at NJIT, 61-46
A very respectable week for the Big Red. A close road loss to New Hampshire, College Insider’s #18 Mid-Major, followed by its two largest wins of the year.
Except for sophomore Samantha Widmann (15.5 points; 42 percent shooting) and senior Christine Ehland (8.5 points; 43 percent shooting), there is not much to the offense. However, Cornell is doing a commendable job on the defensive end. The Big Red has a league-leading offensive rebounding rate (37.2 percent), while second in forced turnovers (18.8) and steals (9.2). They are also holding teams to 5.2 threes a game on 29.2 percent shooting and 59.7 points a game. The conference schedule may not bring many wins, but Dayna Smith’s crew will look to continue building its defensive foundation for the future.
Ancient Eight’s Top Eight
Jen Berkowitz (senior forward, Yale)
13 points, 15 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal vs UC Davis
21 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block vs Hartford
Carlie Littlefield (first-year guard, Princeton)
15 points, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals (in 20 minutes) vs UMBC
Shayna Mehta (junior guard, Brown)
22 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists vs Howard
Michelle Nwokedi (senior forward, Penn)
13 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists, 6 blocks, 1 steal vs VCU
10 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists vs NJIT
Eleah Parker (first-year forward, Penn)
18 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals vs VCU
16 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 steal vs NJIT
Taylor Rooks (senior guard, Harvard)
18 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 blocks, 4 steals vs Stony Brook
Samantha Widmann (sophomore guard, Cornell)
9 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal vs UNH
17 points, 8 rebounds, 1 steal vs UMass-Lowell
23 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal vs NJIT
Camille Zimmerman (senior forward, Columbia)
13 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, 1 steal vs Houston
12 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, 3 steals vs Rice
22 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 block vs Hampton