Vasquez Scores 23 Points, Newcomer Latham Dishes Out 10 Assists in Victory
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — There were signs of high potential for the 2011-12 season and there were also some signs that there is still work to be done if that potential is to be reached, but the end result is one that the Yale University women's basketball team will definitely take from its first game of the season.
Junior guard Megan Vasquez, a First-Team All-Ivy selection a year ago, picked up where she left off and scored 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting to lead Yale to a 76-71 win over Holy Cross in non-league play inside John J. Lee Amphitheater Friday night.
"We owe a lot to Megan," said Chris Gobrecht, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954, Head Coach of Women's Basketball. "She is such a steadying force for us. Our young kids played well. The team played hard, and if you play hard good things will happen."
Senior captain Michelle Cashen and sophomore forward Janna Graf each scored 15 points for the Bulldogs, while freshman forward Hayden Latham added eight points and a game-high 10 assists. Latham is the first Yale player to record double-digit assists since junior Aarica West had 10 in last season's win over Florida State on Dec. 18, 2010, and the second player to do so since Stephanie Marciano had 10 assists on Dec. 7, 2007, against Stony Brook.
"It was a lot of fun," Latham said of her first collegiate game. "I really enjoy playing with this team and it was nice that it was at home, and I think that we have a lot of potential. I try not to have too many expectations for myself. I just want to go out and play within myself and hope that we play well as a team."
That wasn't always the case against the Crusaders. The Bulldogs jumped out to an early 9-4 lead that Holy Cross quickly erased with a 12-5 run to take a 16-14 lead. The two teams traded baskets for most of the remainder of the first half before Yale was able to reclaim the lead on a 3-pointer by Graf with 13 seconds remaining that sent the Bulldogs into the halftime break on top 32-29.
Yale was in control right from the start of the second half. The Bulldogs were able to open up an 11-point lead (49-38) in opening five minutes of the half behind a pair of threes from Graf, five points from Latham, and four from Cashen.
The Bulldogs held the Crusaders in check over the next five minutes, maintaining a nine-point cushion that lasted through the 9:34 mark, at which point Yale held a 58-49 lead. Holy Cross whittled away at the Yale lead and climbed back into the game using an 11-4 run to trim the deficit to 62-60 with 4:08 remaining.
Yale followed with an 8-2 run over the next 1:46 to extend the lead to eight points (70-62). The Crusaders' Amy Lepley followed with a 3-pointer that cut the deficit to 70-65 with 1:50 left, but sophomore Zenab Keita followed 15 seconds later with a jumper that gave Yale a 72-65 lead and secured the victory. Holy Cross did get within three points (74-71) with 0:09 on the clock, but a pair of Michelle Cashen free throws accounted for the final scoring and put the game out of reach.
"I think one of the best qualities of this group is they don't ever stop," Gobrecht said. "They just keep coming and keep coming and sometimes things go well and sometimes things go not so well, but they never take a play off. We have things that we have to work on, but everybody stayed with it."
Another impressive factor in the game for the Bulldogs was the play of the entire freshmen class. Not one of the three appeared to be intimidated by the fact that it was their first game in a Yale uniform. In addition to Latham's stellar performance, Sarah Halejian added a game-high six steals, including a crucial steal of a long pass in the closing seconds that prevented Holy Cross from narrowing the gap. Arrice Bryant was equally impressive. She came off the bench to score five points and a team-high five rebounds, including a four clutch offensive rebounds.