Thoughts on Ivy League openers – women’s basketball

Princeton 70 at Penn 55

The Princeton Tigers improve to 11-3 overall and, more importantly, 1-0 in the Ivy League, as they beat the two time defending champion Penn Quakers (6-5, 0-1 Ivy) for the first time in over 1,000 days.  The Orange & Black looked as if they would run away from the Red & Blue when they opened up a 10-point lead with 3:36 left in the first half, but Penn went on a 7-0 run to go into the break down 31-28.  

In the second half, the Tigers upped the defensive effort, frustrating the Quakers time and time again as they created another 10-point lead with 8:33 left in the fourth quarter.  Unlike the first half, Princeton would not let Penn shift the game’s momentum and cruised to a 15-point victory on their rival’s home court.

Some quick thoughts:

Eleah Parker Is Good, But Bella Alarie Is Better

Penn’s Eleah Parker has won the last three Ivy Rookie of the Week awards and was as good as advertised in her first conference matchup.   She led the Quakers with 14 points on 47 percent shooting and added seven rebounds.  She also made her presence known when she leveled Leslie Robinson down low and Carlie Littlefield off a screen in the second half.  

As good as Penn’s first-year was, she was not in the same category as Alarie, a first team All-Ivy last season and a starting member for USA Basketball this past summer.  She stuffed the stat sheet with 18 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and a career-high eight blocks.  After being held in check by Penn in the first half, she dominated the second with 13 points and six blocks, while holding Parker to only four points.

Threes Were Key

Princeton came into the game averaging 6.2 made threes on 31.6 percent shooting.  While Penn was controlling the Tigers’ inside game in the first half, the Tigers went 6-for-12 from outside.  Junior guard Gabrielle Rush, who came into the game averaging one made three on 24 percent shooting, went 4-for-4 from downtown.  Princeton only went 2-for-9 from three in the second half, but both were helpful in keeping Penn from making a late run.

Defensively, the Tigers only allowed 3.8 threes on 28.3 shooting through the team’s first 13 games. Penn was able to get six threes on 30 percent shooting, but that was noticeably less than the eight threes on 34.5 shooting it averaged in nonconference play. The Quakers did make three of their last four threes, but it was a too late as the Tigers held them to 3-for-16 outside (19 percent) shooting for the first 33:09 of the game.

Scheduling Matters

Playing a challenging pre-conference schedule does not always amount to a large number of wins, but it can better assist a team and its coaching staff learn about it’s strengths and weaknesses.  Princeton played one of the toughest nonconference schedules in the country and won 10 of 13 games.  Facing 2017 postseason teams George Washington, Quinnipiac, Georgia Tech and Chattanooga, in addition to solid high majors at Rutgers and Seton Hall, have given the younger players valuable experience while helping the team learn valuable lessons for league play.  Penn, meanwhile, has played the fewest number of games among Ivy teams heading into league play, faced three teams with a combined 6-31 record over the last 25 days and battled elite competition only against Georgia Tech and Notre Dame.

Dartmouth 63 vs Harvard 56

On opening night in Ivy play, Dartmouth (9-5, 1-0 Ivy) continued its early season success by defeating Harvard (7-5, 0-1 Ivy) for the first time since January 23, 2016 and equaling its total wins from the 2016-2017 season.  Both teams struggled from the field in the first quarter, but Dartmouth came away with a 14-10 lead on the strength of getting 10 points off Harvard turnovers.  The Big Green took control over a 7:50 period between the first and second quarters, where they held the Crimson without a field goal and stretched a two-point lead to an 11-point advantage.

After going down 14 points with 1:16 left in the third quarter, Harvard finally made its run.  Over the next 3:10, the Crimson went on a 11-2 run to get within five points. Getting the ball back with 7:32 to go, Harvard had the ball in the hands of Katie Benzan, its leading scorer, looking to get within two or three points.  Unfortunately for the Crimson, Cy Lippold picked Benzan’s pocket and went in for the layup, stopping the Harvard run and igniting an 8-0 Dartmouth run that effectively put the game away.

Some quick thoughts: 

Dartmouth Frontcourt Played Big

Dartmouth center Olivia Smith set the dominating tone early, getting Harvard’s Jeannie Boehm to commit two fouls within the first 2:38 and sending the Crimson’s second leading rebounder and third leading scorer to the bench for the remainder of the first half.  With Boehm on the bench, her replacements had two points and two rebounds, while the Green & White frontcourt (Smith, Andi Norman, Isalys Quinones and Paula Lenart) had 21 points, 10 rebounds and three assists in the first 20 minutes.

Benzan and Team Three-Point Struggles

Katie Benzan, a member of the 2016-17 first-team All-Ivy team who entered the game averaging 12.8 points, was second in the conference with 3.2 made threes a game on 42 percent shooting.  The Big Green guards hounded her all day, forcing her into six points and two made threes on 29 percent outside shooting.  They also held her to two assists and forced her into four turnovers, 1.5 assists lower and 1.7 turnovers higher than her season averages.

As noted in last week’s update, Harvard’s was 7-0 when shooting greater than 29 percent from downtown and 0-5 when shooting less.  The Crimson went 1-for-11 in the first half, starting out 0-for-9 and hitting their first outside bucket with 2:35 left in the second quarter.  They did hit their last two attempts in the fourth quarter, but had started the half 3-for-18.  For the game, Harvard ended up 6-for-31 for 19 percent, continuing its pre-conference trend.

The Legend of Lippold Continues to Grow

The Dartmouth team and its starting point guard Cy Lippold are arguably the biggest and most pleasant surprises of the early part of the 2017-18 season.  The 5’ 2” East Stroudsburg native was the third-string point guard last season, averaging 2.1 points and 0.3 steals per game.  This year, she earned the starting job late in the preseason and entered the conference schedule averaging 13.8 points and 2.5 steals per contest.  Despite being guarded by Benzan, Lippold led Dartmouth with 19 points, including 16 in the second half.  She also added four steals, two of which came in the fourth quarter, halting any chance of a Harvard comeback.

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on Ivy League openers – women’s basketball

  1. Let’s not forgot that Princeton women also played nationally ranked Villanova women and only lost 62-59 earlier in the season.

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