Southern basketball visits Yale
In first taste of the new season, Owls fall to Ivy League opponent in debut
Hunter O. Lyle — Sports Editor
To kick off their season, the women’s basketball team traveled across town to play an Elm City rival, but for the first time in recent history, it was not their typical opponent, University of New Haven. Instead, the Owls faced the Yale Bulldogs for an exhibition match, losing a closely fought game 64-52.
In previous years, both the men’s and women’s teams have looked to play teams outside their division for preseason games, such as UConn or Syracuse. Head coach Kate Lynch said playing preseason games, especially against teams that have elite talent, help the team to prepare for the upcoming conference battles.
“Anytime you can play a team that’s right down the road from you, and play a
tough team like that, I think it really benefits us in a way that we look at some of the things that we need to get better at,” said Lynch. “If we can do some of these good things that we did against Yale, we can do these things against NE10 teams.”
In the opening quarter of the game, it quickly became apparent that it would be a grit-and-grind contest for the Owls. Yale’s flashy guards and lengthy 6’5”
center was a dangerous duo. Driving, dishing and scoring — Southern’s fundamental playstyle was clearly challenged by the speed and size of their DI opponent.
With that being said, the Owls battled throughout the first quarter, even pulling ahead briefly, thanks to the efforts of forward Jessica Fressle, a senior, who scored seven points that quarter. Southern had managed to
tie the game at 17 after one, but their hopes of winning gradually faded throughout the rest of the game.
In the second quarter, Southern exploded out of the gates, opening with two three-pointers from two of the team’s freshmen, guard Amani Boston and forward Blake Greer. The Owls kept up the pace and held the lead until the Bulldogs eventually caught up by relying on their interior offense and their ability to
draw fouls. At halftime, the Bulldogs lead 40-33.
The second half of the game was where Southern began to struggle. Yale had adjusted their defense, stripping ballhandlers and intercepting passes, while also reclaiming control of the pace of the action, using quick — and, most of the time, flashy — passes to spread the floor and open up scoring opportunities.
For the Owls, their offense had run dry. Although multiple players got some open shots and chances to score, the ball refused to go in. In the third quarter the Owls only scored 8 points to the Bulldogs’ 14.
In the fourth and final quarter of play, after a brief scoring burst, the Owls began to struggle again, and this time, on both sides of the floor. Yale was consistently able to cut back door and gain easy points, eventually running away with the game and winning 64-52.
Fressle, who fouled out late in the fourth, lead the team in scoring, finishing with 17 points, four rebounds and one steal. While Steinauer collected seven rebounds and four steals on the night, she could not find the bottom of the basket, finishing with only seven points off 3-14 shooting (21 percent).
“I think what worked was we ran the ball. What didn’t work was our transition defense,” said guard Ednaija Lassiter, a redshirt junior. “We had a rough time getting back; we just weren’t hustling enough. We beat ourselves in transition, for the most part.”
The process of replacing key players can be a difficult task for teams, especially when losing an athlete that set the schools record for three’s made in a single season like Amanda Pfohl did last year. However, while the team may not have the lights-out shooting that Pfohl brought, the Owls certainly made up for the loss in depth.
“Everyone’s getting used to our system: what we like, how we run things — just our culture in general,” said Lynch, “but, everybody stepped out there and they contributed. Even if they didn’t score points, they were tough on defense. They did a lot of great things.”
This season, along with returning talents such as rebounding machine forward Kiana Steinauer, a senior who averaged a double-double in points and rebounds last year, and point guard Imani Wheeler, a senior who has stepped into the role of floor general, the Owls also brought in some transfer talent in Lassiter, who came from Division I University of Rhode Island and ended with six points, four rebounds and two steals against Yale.
While the Owls might have lost their first game of the season, Lassiter said she and her team are absolutely determined to win this season.
“I think we did pretty good. We got a lot to work on, a lot to get better at. We got to hit some shots, we got to stay consistent; that’s the biggest thing that we preach in the locker room,” said Lassiter, “but we’re coming for a national championship. Anything short of that is a failure.”
Photo credit: Will Alio