Bulldogs' First Postseason Appearance Since 1979 Ends In WNIT's First Round
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The Yale University women's basketball program made significant strides throughout the 2010-11 season in the quest for higher prominence among the nation's Division I basketball teams, but that does not help heal the sting from a loss that ends a season.
The Bulldogs saw a few firsts, and even a some things that they had not accomplished in decades, but none of the accomplishments were bigger than the way they ended the 2010-11 season. The Bulldogs made their first-ever appearance in a national postseason tournament, qualifying for the Women's National Invitational Tournament by earning the Ivy League's automatic berth that goes to the League's second-place finisher.
Yale finished tied for second in the Ivy League with Harvard, with both teams closing the season with identical 10-4 records in League play. It was Yale's highest finish since the 1988-89 season, the only other season that Yale finished Ivy play with a 10-4 mark. Yale earned the Ivy's automatic berth by sweeping Harvard during the regular season for the first time since the 1993-94 season.
Yale's reward was a meeting with Atlantic Coast Conference power Boston College, a team that entered the game as the ninth-highest scoring offense in the nation. The Eagles are led by senior Carolyn Swords, a 6-foot-6 center who is the nation's best shooter (72.2 percent) and averages 17.6 points and 9.0 rebounds per game.
The Bulldogs found a way to limit Swords, but the rest of the Eagles did more than enough to compensate.
Senior guard Jaclyn Thoman scored a game-high 23 points to lead Boston College to an 85-61 win over Yale Thursday night in the first round of the Women's National Invitational Tournament inside John J. Lee Amphitheater, ending Yale's first postseason tournament appearance since 1979.
Boston College senior forward Stefanie Murphy scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds, while freshman guard Kristen Doherty added 11 points and five rebounds. Yale held Swords to just nine points, well short of her 17.6 ppg. average, but she was still a force in the paint, grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds in only 20 minutes of action.
Yale was led by freshman forward Janna Graf, who scored a team-high 15 points to go along with four rebounds and three steals. In her final game in a Yale uniform, senior forward Mady Gobrecht collected 10 points, five rebounds and four steals. Junior forward Michelle Cashen scored 11 points.
Yale's only lead of the game came just 2:00 into the game on a 3-pointer from sophomore guard Aarica West that gave the Bulldogs a 3-2 lead. The Bulldogs kept pace with the Eagles through the first 10 minutes and trailed by just four points, 19-15, with 10:02 remaining in the first half.
However, adjustments made by the Eagles over the final 10 minutes of the half were more than enough to give them total control. The Eagles went on an 11-0 run over the next 4:45 to open up a 30-15 lead. B.C. outscored Yale 28-13 over the final 9:41 to go into the halftime break with a 47-28 lead.
The second half started in much the same way as the first half ended. Boston College scored the first six points of the half to extend its lead to 25 points, 53-28. It was more than enough cushion to carry the Eagles into the second round of the WNIT and end a remarkable season for the Bulldogs.
The Eagles took control of the game behind their ability to find scoring opportunities inside. They outscored the Bulldogs 60-24 in the paint and 13-2 off of second-chance opportunities. While Swords was not the offensive force that the Bulldogs were expecting, the rest of the Eagles found a way to drive to the basket, and they dominated the boards throughout the game, outrebounding the Bulldogs 46-21.
The result allows Boston College to advance to a second-round matchup with St. Joseph's, which defeated Virginia Commonwealth, 72-66, to advance. Meanwhile, Yale will look to next season, having experienced a national postseason tournament for the first time in its 38-year history. And while Gobrecht and senior captain Yoyo Greenfield see their careers come to an end, the returning players already have a goal in mind for the 2011-12 season.
"The fact that we made postseason play is a huge accomplishment and I think the team needs to go into every season from now on with that high bar and reach it every single year from now on. I think it is a standard," Gobrecht said.
Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity
WNIT First Round Quotes
Boston College 85, Yale 61
March 17, 2011
YALE HEAD COACH CHRIS GOBRECHT
On tonight's loss
"They had a lot of big seniors. It was a pretty tall order. I thought we did a pretty good job in the second half. I thought we competed in the second half, but I thought they definitely stunned us early. We just were not ready for how big and strong they are."
On ending the season with the loss
"I told these guys that every team in the country except two will end their season with a loss. You can never allow that to be what defines your season. The only teams left playing right now are the top third of the nation. There are no turkeys out there. I think the lesson for all of our young kids, and we have a lot of young kids, but the lesson is that you just have to realize how good the level of play is. I think the Princeton women will do better this time around. When they played St. John's in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year, the same thing happened to them. They got stunned. Then you have had that experience. Boston College has been in the WNIT three times in the last four years and they start three seniors. You understand what you are going to face. The really great thing about the team and the program now is that this is where they want to be in March. You want that opportunity to play against the best teams in the country and to measure yourself in that kind of environment. It was a really great experience for us. The team was excited about being here and having this chance. It is nothing but a positive."
On the defensive game plan tonight
"When you have that type of weapon inside like they have with those two kids, those two kids average 40 points and 20 rebounds between them. We had to kind of pick our poison. We had no choice. We couldn't stand back off of them and just watch them chuck the ball into the big kids. We chose to go after them and they adjusted. To their credit, they adjusted and started taking it to the rim. Then we had to adjust back, but that is a very potent offensive team. It is one of the best offensive teams in the nation. For most of the year they had been in the top 10 (currently 9th, 78.4 ppg.). They have so many weapons. If you pull off to double on the big girl, their shooters are going to bury you. If you go out and pressure them, they have the skill to take it to the rim, and if they break you down at all, they are going to get the offensive board."
What was the biggest difference in the game tonight?
"Our biggest liability was we just couldn't rebound with them. We had to get every point that we got off of one try. They were often getting two and three tries, not that they needed two or three tries. We had to do it off of one try. We had to go after them to try and force turnovers, but we held them to their average, and a lot of those points came off of our turnovers. It wasn't so much what they were doing in the half-court game. I don't feel necessarily that the defense was where we didn't quite get it done. I think we just needed to be more assertive offensively. I thought what we did in the second half, when we started taking it to the rim against them, we could have done in the first half. We needed to rebound. Like I said, it is a tall order to try to get every point off of one try."
How was the strategy different in the second half?
"We were trying to take it to the rim because we felt that we were either going to score it or we were going to get fouled. We were willing to throw it inside and try to go after them. I think we allowed ourselves to be too intimidated by them at the beginning of the game. We didn't attack them. If we had attacked them from the get-go, we might have been in the game, but we got too far behind."
YALE SENIOR FORWARD MADY GOBRECHT
On the team's never-give-up mentality
"It's definitely something that we pride ourselves on. We are not as big as most teams so we always have to run. We spend most of our preseason just running. There's no ball, it's just running. We're trained to do it, whether we are down or up, every single time the ball goes through the net or we get a defensive rebound, we run."
On what she will take away from this season
"It has been really great. It is hard to end on a loss, but all the really great things we did this year are definitely memorable. The win over Florida State is definitely the best win I have ever had, in addition to the win at Harvard. I had never won at Harvard, and beating them at their place was really memorable too. The fact that we made postseason play is a huge accomplishment and I think the team needs to go into every season from now on with that high bar and reach it every single year from now on. I think it is a standard."
How daunting is it when you come out and have to defend 6-6 and 6-4 post players?
"It is a fun challenge because you know that they are going to try to lob it into them, especially with the defense that we play. We practiced it all week and they still got it inside. It is fun to go out there and play against players like that. You don't get to do that every day, especially in the Ivy League. I like having that opportunity."
BOSTON COLLEGE HEAD COACH SYLVIA CRAWLEY
On tonight's victory
"We didn't take them lightly when we came in here, and I thought our players stuck to the game plan and executed it to perfection tonight.
How did Florida State's loss at Yale on Dec. 18 help prepare you for tonight?
"That definitely helped us as coaches. We showed clips of when they played against Florida State and how they beat them. Our players knew that this was a team that played hard and if you take them lightly they will beat you. I thought we came in here and we were ready because of that game. It gave us a chance to see how Yale played against Florida State's post players because Yale mixes it up sometimes depending on how big the other team's post players are."
After not qualifying for the NCAA Tournament, was this a good response from your players?
"Yes. I think everyone is invested. They are on a mission. They are hungry and they are working hard and having fun doing it. It was fun to watch tonight."
On the strategy against Yale's defense
"I think with the way that their post players play defense, they were face guarding kind of on the high side, and we told our post players to post up at the mid-post, instead of in the low-post, so our post players were actually able to be a screen for our guards to go all the way to the basket. They were actually posting up, but they were screening their man off so that she couldn't help on the drive. That worked for us and once our guards saw that was happening, they just kept driving and getting all the way to the basket."
B.C. SENIOR GUARD JACLYN THOMAN
On the team's energy level tonight
"I think it is anybody's goal to go to the NCAA Tournament, but being able to play in the WNIT, it's a championship too. It's a dance too and that's the way we looked at it. It might not be as big, but it proves something, so we told everyone that and I think we were all thinking that anyway. It's just great to still play and to continue to play with this group of girls."
On the strategy against Yale's defense
"That is usually the game plan in every game, get the ball inside to our bigs and get them to score early so we, as guards, can be ready when the ball gets kicked back out. I don't know why, but I was attacking the basket more. They came out at me hard and they played tight defense on me, but I found that I could beat them off the first step. It just came to me and that's what they were giving me."