The Yale University women's basketball team embarks on its three-game Texas swing on Tuesday. The first game of the week is one of the most anticipated matchups of the season. The Bulldogs will take on the Baylor Bears, who are ranked No. 1 in both the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN Coaches Top 25 Polls. It is the first time in Yale's 39-year history that it has faced the nation's top-ranked team. The Bulldogs are hoping to bounce back from a loss at Marist in their previous game against an imposing opponent that is led by an imposing presence in the post. The Bears are led by 6-foot-9 Brittney Griner, who leads the Bears with 22.8 points, 12.3 rebounds and 5.5 blocks per game through four games. However, she isn't the only one producing for the Bears. Sophomore guard Odyssey Sims is averaging 20.0 points, 4.3 assists and 3.5 steals per game. Yale is led by junior guard Megan Vasquez (18.3 ppg., 2.7 apg.) and senior captain Michelle Cashen (11.3 ppg., 4.7 rpg.).
Baylor finished the 2010-11 season with a stellar 34-3 overall record, including a near-perfect 15-1 in Big 12 play. The Bears entered the season as the top-ranked team in both the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN Coaches preseason polls, and they remain No. 1 in the nation as they prepare to host Yale Tuesday night. The scouting report for Baylor begins with junior center Brittney Griner, who not only is the consensus preseason player of the year, but she is also a prospective member of the U.S. Olympic Women's Basketball Team, which will compete in the 2012 Olympics in London next summer. Griner, who has an 88-inch (7'4") wing span and a standing one-arm reach of 110 inches (9'2"). Clearly she is an imposing presence for any of Baylor's opponents, but she isn't the only threat that the Bears have. Sophomore guard Odyssey Sims is second on the team in scoring (20.0 ppg.) and also averages 2.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 3.5 steals per game. Fellow sophomore Destiny Williams is another threat that the Bears use to complement Griner's post presence. She is third on the team in scoring (13.0 ppg.) and second in rebounding (9.3 rpg.). Expect the Bears to remain the top team in the nation next season as they return most of their roster in 2012-13, including all of the key players.
Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey has had a familiar face on her bench in each of the last two seasons. Sophomore guard Makenzie Robertson is one of Mulkey's two children. She is also plays on Baylor's softball team.
One Championship Down, One to Go?
Baylor, the nation's top-ranked team, has opened its season with four consecutive victories, all in the Preseason WNIT, which included a 94-81 win over No. 2 Notre Dame in the championship game. Brittney Griner led the Bears in the title game with 32 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks. Odyssey Sims had 25 points, six assists and six steals. The Bears opened the tournament with a dominating pair of wins over Howard (82-28) and Chattanooga (91-31) before beating UCLA 83-50 in the semifinal. It was certainly an impressive start to the season for a team that many predict will contend for a national championship at season's end.
Baylor is averaging an impressive 53.8 rebounds per game, while holding an average advantage of 18.0 rebounds per game over their opponents. The Bears hauled down 52 against Notre Dame, Howard and UCLA and 59 against Chattanooga.
Tuesday's game in Waco, Texas, represents the second time that Yale has squared off against Baylor. Yale's first meeting with the Bears occurred on Nov. 19, 2000, under then-head coach Amy Backus. The Bulldogs and Bears met in the second game of the Boston University Invitational, where Baylor prevailed in an 81-52 victory in Boston, Mass.
Bulldogs Suffer First Defeat
After Yale opened its season with a pair of victories, the Bulldogs could not find a way to extend that win streak to three games for the team's first 3-0 start since the 1998-99 season, when Yale opened with a 4-0 mark. The Bulldogs traveled to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where, despite controlling a majority of the first half, they fell to Marist, 78-64, on Friday. Yale appeared to be in a strong position nearing the halftime break, but Marist closed the half with an 11-2 run that knocked the Bulldogs down and they could not find a way to recover in the second half. Megan Vasquez scored a team-high 21 points, including four 3-pointers, but it wasn't enough to prevent the Bulldogs (2-1) from dropping their first game of the season. Freshman center Arrice Bryant was the only other Bulldog in double figures. She scored eight of her 10 points in the first half to finish with the first double-figure scoring effort of her young Yale career. She also had a team-high nine rebounds.
Tuesday's game at Baylor marks the midway point of a six-game stretch away from the friendly confines of John J. Lee Amphitheater for Yale. The rules of the road will quickly become routine for the Bulldogs, with 14 of the next 19 games on the road. The Bulldogs can find comfort in the fact that six of the final eight games will be played inside John J. Lee Amphitheater, at about the same time that the Bulldogs hope to be making a run at the Ivy League championship.
On The Road To 500
Chris Gobrecht, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954, Head Coach of Women's Basketball at Yale, currently holds a 489-417 career coaching record following the loss at Marist last week. She needs just 11 wins to reach 500 career coaching victories, all at the Division I level. She currently ranks 21st among active coaches for Division I coaching wins. Gobrecht is among six coaches who could reach the 500-win milestone this season.
Milestone Watch for Vasquez
Following a game-high 23 points in the season-opening win over Holy Cross, 11 points against Fairleigh Dickinson, and a team-high 21 points at Marist, junior guard Megan Vasquez has now scored 743 career points. She needs just 257 points to reach 1,000 career points. Vasquez scored 322 points in her freshman season and 366 points last season. If she approaches her average of 344 points from her first two seasons, she should reach the 1,000-point milestone at some point during the Ivy League season. In doing so, Vasquez will become the 17th player in Yale's history to reach 1,000 career points. The last Bulldog to reach the milestone was Melissa Colborne, who closed out her career with 1,418 points, fifth on Yale's all-time scoring list. If Vasquez continues to maintain her 344-point pace, she would finish in sixth place on Yale's all-time list with 1,376 career points.
Welcome to Yale
Yale welcomes five new faces to the roster in 2011-12. Joining the coaching staff are Jarietta Benton and Kelly Rotan. Benton comes to Yale after one year as an assistant coach at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and a four-year stint with the Saint Louis University women's basketball program. Rotan is beginning her coaching career after a four-year standout career at Juniata. Three players also join the Bulldogs' roster as freshman for the 2011-12 season. Guards Sarah Halejian and Hayden Latham and center Arrice Bryant are all expected to play a big part in the Bulldogs' plans this season. Halejian, a 5-9 guard from Wyckoff, N.J., is a two-time North Jersey Player of the Year and closed her high school career atop Ramapo High's all-time scoring list (1,839 points). Latham, a 5-9 guard from Greenville, S.C., was a three-time South Carolina Coaches Association Women's Sports Player of the Year and was the first player at Christ Church Episcopal School to record more than 2,000 points. Bryant, a 6-2 center from Detroit, brings size and power to the roster. She was ranked as the No. 39 center in the Class of 2015 by ESPN. She led Renaissance High to three DPSL City championships, three MHSAA District titles and two appearances in the state finals.
Strength of Schedule
The non-league schedule in 2011-12 is Yale's toughest non-league slate during Gobrecht's tenure as head coach. It features four teams that received votes in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches' Preseason Poll, including Baylor. Yale will meet the Bears on Nov. 22 in Waco, Texas, for what will likely be the Bulldogs' first-ever game against the nation's No. 1 team. The Bulldogs are also slated to meet No. 13 Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla. Yale will also meet Marist and Houston during the non-league portion of the schedule, both of which didn't make the Top 25 but received votes in the poll. The schedule also includes matchups against Boston University, Fairleigh Dickinson and Delaware, all of which defeated the Bulldogs during last season's seven-game losing streak. The Bulldogs will visit Texas during Thanksgiving week, beginning with the highly anticipated game at No. 1 Baylor and ending with the David Jones Classic at the University of Houston. The holiday tournament will also see the Bulldogs take on Texas-Pan American. Yale will see rematches with Quinnipiac, Army, Holy Cross, and Bucknell, as well as games against St. Francis (N.Y.) and Baruch, the only opponent on the schedule that Yale has never faced in its history.
The 2010-11 season ended with a magical run that produced not only the first WNIT appearance in program history, but also an abundance of awards for the Bulldogs. Guard Megan Vasquez, and forwards Mady Gobrecht, Michelle Cashen and Janna Graf all earned places on the 2010-11 All-Ivy Team. Vasquez was named to the All-Ivy First Team. She finished the season as the Bulldogs' leading scorer at 13.6 points per game. It is the 17th time that a Yale player earned a spot on the All-Ivy First Team. Vasquez was the third player to earn First-Team honors during Chris Gobrecht's tenure as head coach and the first since Erica Davis (2006-07). Mady Gobrecht earned a spot on the All-Ivy Second Team, the first All-Ivy honor of her college career. She was second on the team in scoring (11.9 ppg.) and rebounding (6.3 rpg.). Graf was named to the All-Ivy Rookie Team. She was third on the team in scoring (9.5 ppg.). She was named the Ivy League's Rookie of the Week four times this season and was a Player of the Week once. Cashen earned All-Ivy Honorable Mention after finishing fourth on the Bulldogs in scoring (8.2 ppg.). She also led the Bulldogs in rebounding (6.6 rpg.).
Postseason For Princeton, Yale
The Ivy League teams combined for a 7-4 record during Week 2 of the season. Princeton led the way with a 2-0 record on the week, including a 56-41 win over Villanova, which came in to the game averaging 70 points per contest and in the receiving votes category in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls. It was the first win for an Ivy League team over a Big East foe since Dec. 29, 2006, when Yale beat Providence, 68-55, and the first time Princeton defeated a Big East opponent since 1997. Penn, Cornell and Brown each went 1-0 last week while Yale and Dartmouth went 1-1.
2010-11 Ivy League Preseason Poll
Voted on by a panel of Ivy media and women's basketball sports information directors, Princeton was selected to win its third consecutive Ivy League Championship, receiving 14 of the 17 possible first-place votes and 133 points.
Predicted Order of Finish (First-Place Votes in Parentheses)
Penn sophomore Alyssa Baron and Princeton junior Niveen Rasheed were named Ivy League Co-Players of the Week. Baron posted 30 points in a 66-57 win over Rider on Nov. 19. She also recorded five rebounds. Rasheed led Princeton to a 2-0 week, with wins over Lafayette and Villanova. Rasheed averaged 20.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 3.0 assists in the two games. Columbia freshman Miwa Tachibana becomes the second-straight Lion to earn Rookie of the Week honors after Amara Mbionwu took home the award last week. In Columbia's only game last week, Tachibana led the team with 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting. Yale's Megan Vasquez earned a spot on the Weekly Honor Roll for the second straight week.