Simpson Scores 20, Sarju Nets 18
QUEENS, N.Y. – The Yale women's basketball team struggled with offensive efficiency on Wednesday night, falling to a strong St. John's team, 69-56, in a game that was as close as three points in the fourth quarter.
Despite 20 points from sophomore guard Tamara Simpson (North Babylon, N.Y.) and 18 from senior forward Nyasha Sarju (Seattle, Wash.), the Bulldogs (6-5) came up short against the Red Storm – Yale's third opponent this season receiving votes in the AP Poll at the time of the game.
Trailing just 50-47 at the 6:04 mark in the fourth quarter and on the verge of a road upset, the Red Storm went on a 10-0 run over the next three minutes to take control. Yale was just 5-of-15 shooting in the final period.
A stunning 9-2 run by the Elis to open the game announced their presence quickly in front of a large crowd in the Carnesecca Arena. However, the Bulldogs were outscored, 16-4, in the second quarter and never retook the lead.
"I didn't like our commitment to our defensive game plan. We wanted to protect the paint as much as we could and we felt like St. John's had free will down low," said Joel E. Smilow '54 head coach Allison Guth. Yale was outscored in the paint, 34-28.
Yale's bench struggled to contribute on the offensive side, being outscored 24-4 by the Red Storm bench in an area that is usually an Eli strength. The Bulldogs turned the ball over 19 times, as St. John's scored 16 points off those miscues.
Senior guard Danaejah Grant led the Red Storm with 23 points, 11 of which came in the fourth quarter. St. John's shot 50-percent from the field as a team (28-of-56), making it difficult for the Bulldogs to gain ground.
"The versatility in which she can score. She can score from beyond the arc and she is tremendous at just getting to the rim," said Guth of Grant's ability. "She was able to pick up a head of steam sometimes when we gave her too much of a cushion."
Senior guard and team captain Whitney Wyckoff (West Chester, Ohio) had another solid night with eight points, eight rebounds and three assists. Junior forward Katie Werner (Phoenix, Ariz.) added six points, four rebounds and two steals in the loss.
The Bulldogs scored the game's first seven points, five of which by Simpson, leading them to a 17-15 lead after the first quarter. Yale was 7-of-17 (41.2-percent) from the field in the first 10 minutes, while also knocking down three shots from long range.
The second quarter was a different story, as the Elis were just 1-of-11 shooting and scored a season-low four points in the quarter. The Bulldogs had 13 turnovers by halftime and were trailing, 31-21.
"We had a lack of urgency when getting into our offense in the second quarter. It looked like we were stuck in mud," said Guth. "That wasn't an effort that I would characterize our team with after a win. It was a lack of push in transition."
Like they have done in several games this season, Yale came out firing on all cylinders in the third quarter – opening the second half on a 14-8 run. Back-to-back jumpers by Wyckoff cut the lead to 39-35 around the six-minute mark.
Yale shot 60-percent (9-of-15) in the third period, but the Red Storm answered by shooting 58.3-percent (7-of-12) and maintaining a seven-point edge. Simpson had eight points in the quarter.
Much like the first half, however, the Bulldogs followed a strong shooting quarter with a more tamed one, hence the offensive inconsistency. After two free throws by Werner at 6:04 cut the lead to three, the Red Storm made its run.
St. John's didn't score its first basket of the fourth quarter until the 5:47 mark, but went on to score 19 points in the final six minutes to cruise to the 13-point win.
The Bulldogs are 0-3 this season when facing teams that are receiving votes to be in the national polls, but the average margin of defeat is just over eight points – proof that they have been competitive in every game.
"We get two days of practice now where we can focus on not just Stony Brook, but work on some things we have to fix," said Guth. "I'm excited to get back to the first day of practice tomorrow, that's the type of intensity I'm looking for."
Yale has two games left before the holiday break and it will get back to work on Saturday when it hosts Stony Brook at 2 p.m. in the Lee Amphitheater. The game can be seen on the Ivy League Digital Network.
Filed by Steve Lewis, Yale Sports Publicity