The Yale University women's basketball team caps off its six-game run on the road when it visits the University of Delaware to play the unbeaten Blue Hens on Monday. Delaware, ranked No. 24 in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll is playing its second game in two days. The Blue Hens opened Colonial Athletic Association play on Sunday against William & Mary. Yale is coming off of a two-game sweep of the David Jones Classic at the University of Houston. The Bulldogs outran the Houston Cougars on Nov. 25, 80-62, behind sophomore forward Janna Graf's first career double-double. In the final game of the tournament, Yale outlasted Texas-Pan American, 59-57, to complete the sweep. Yale is led by junior guard Megan Vasquez (15.8 ppg.) and Graf (11.7 ppg., 6.0 rpg.). Nearly two weeks after facing the best player in the country, No. 1 Baylor's Brittney Griner, the Bulldogs face another tall task against Delaware's 6-foot-5 forward Elena Delle Donne. who is the nation's leading scorer (29.3 ppg., 10.5 rpg.).
Delaware, ranked No. 24 in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll, is coming off of a 73-57 win on Sunday over William & Mary in its Colonial Athletic Association opener. Delaware remained an unbeaten 6-0 with the win, marking the best start in the 41-year history of the program. Junior forward Elena Delle Donne is the Blue Hens' shining star and among the top two or three players in the nation, averaging a stellar 29.3 points per game, the highest average in the nation among Division I players. She was "held" to a season-low 22 points against Big East power Villanova and scored a season-high 40 points against then-No. 11 Penn State. Delle Donne has accounted for six double-figure scoring outputs, while the rest of her teammates have combined for a total of 10 more in the Blue Hens' six games this season. While Delle Donne is accounting for much of the Blue Hens' offense, her teammates are proving to be a strong supporting cast. As a whole, the Blue Hens are shooting a superb 46.5 percent, which is 15th in the nation, and average 41.7 rebounds per game, 10.5 more rebounds than their opponents.
Delaware and Yale have met only once prior to Monday's game, and that lone game came last season. The Blue Hens powered past the Bulldogs, 79-61, on Nov. 20, 2010, behind 41 points from Elena Delle Donne. It's not the only time that Yale has faced a team from the Blue Hen State. The Bulldogs played a home-and-home series against Delaware State. Yale split that series, winning at home, 46-45, on Jan. 12, 2005, before falling at Delaware State, 58-48, on Dec. 19, 2005.
Delle Donne Building Blue Hen Legend
Elena Delle Donne, who was recently compared with Boston Celtics great Larry Bird, has almost single-handedly put the Delaware program in the national spotlight, but the road there hasn't been without its bumps. After earning All-American honors in her freshman season, Delle Donne missed 12 games last season due to Lyme Disease symptoms. She still had a stellar season, leading Delaware with 25.3 points per game. She became the second fastest player in NCAA history to reach the 1,000-point mark, doing so in her 38th collegiate game against Northeastern on February 3. Now just six games into her third season, Delle Donne has scored a total of 1,507 points, which places her sixth on Delaware's all-time list, and an average of 26.4 points per game, which puts her atop the Blue Hens' all-time list.
Delle Donne Shines on Global Stage
Elena Delle Donne won a gold medal this summer as a member of the Team USA World University Games squad that went a perfect 6-0 during the international tournament held in Shenzhen, China. She led the U.S. with 15.7 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, and had the second highest three-point percentage with a 44.0 clip. Delle Donne recorded double-doubles against Slovakia and Australia, and narrowly missed a triple-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists during the gold medal game victory over Taiwan.
Yale's Classic Sweep
Yale closed out its three-game Texas swing by sweeping its two games in the David Jones Classic, hosted by the University of Houston. In the Classic opener, sophomore forward Janna Graf helped the Bulldogs snap a two-game losing streak, recording her first career double-double. An All-Ivy Rookie Team selection a year ago, Graf poured in a season-high 25 points and a career-high 13 rebounds to lead Yale to an 80-62 win over Houston on Nov. 25. Junior guard Megan Vasquez erupted for 22 points, 17 coming in the second half, while freshman forward Hayden Latham added 12 points behind a perfect 7-for-7 from the free-throw line. The Bulldogs outrebounded the Cougars 52-34 en route to the victory. In the second game of the Classic, senior captain Michelle Cashen recorded 16 points and six rebounbds to help Yale outlast Texas-Pan American 59-57 on Nov. 26. Vasquez scored 11 of her 12 points in the second half to help the Bulldogs hold off the Broncs. Graf added eight points and nine rebounds.
Halejian's Helping Hand
Freshman guard Sarah Halejian has come on strong in the last five games, averaging 8.0 points per game over that stretch. After a scoreless college debut, she scored nine points against Fairleigh Dickinson at the Hackensack, N.J. campus. Growing up just 12 miles away, the Wyckoff, N.J., native erased the memory of her scoreless season opener with a strong performance in front of many friends and family who came out to support her and her Yale teammates. Halejian scored five points in the loss at Marist, but she saved her best showing for the nation's best team. Halejian scored a team-high 13 points against the Baylor Bears. She hit five of her nine shots, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range.
Zenab's Big Night
Despite having to defend the nation's best player in Brittney Griner, Yale sophomore center Zenab Keita recorded the best performance of her young Yale career. Keita scored Yale's first seven points of the game at Baylor on Nov. 22, passing her previous career high of six points just 3:57 into the game. She made big plays on both ends of the court, helping Yale to a 15-11 lead at the first media timeout 5:17 into the game. Keita finished the game with 13 points to go along with two assists, two steals and two blocks, reaching new career-high marks with all of those statistical categories.
Yale spent its Thanksgiving holiday week in the great state of Texas, playing three tough road games during its visit. The Bulldogs opened the week at top-ranked Baylor. They closed the week at the David Jones Classic, which was played at the University of Houston. Yale squared off against Houston in its opening game of the Classic. In their only previous meeting, Houston defeated Yale, 61-59, on Nov. 23, 2001. The Bulldogs closed out their Texas stay with a game against the Texas-Pan American. The Bulldogs and Broncs have faced each other once before in a 62-49 Yale win on Dec. 2, 2006. The Texas trip, primarily the David Jones Classic games in Houston, gives Yale junior guard Allie Messimer a chance to return home. She grew up in The Highlands, Texas, a community about 20 miles north of Houston.
Bulldogs' Tall Texas Order
Yale opened its three-game Texas swing with a game at Baylor, the top-ranked team in the nation, in what proved to be a tall order in more ways than one. It was Yale's first-ever game against an opponent that was ranked No. 1 in the country at the time of the game. Junior center Brittney Griner, the consensus preseason national player of the year, dominated the game, scoring 31 points, while pulling down 10 rebounds and blocking five shots, to lead Baylor to a 109-59 win over Yale on Nov. 22. However, the score does not indicate how tough of a challenge the Bulldogs made the game for the Bears. For a majority of the first half, it appeared as if the Bulldogs were going to keep pace with the Bears. Yale led by as many as four points, and by the third media timeout, Yale was on top 26-25 with 7:51 left in the half. That's when Griner took charge. She scored 13 points in a 32-7 run over the final over the final 7:17 of the half to propel the Bears into a 57-33 halftime lead. At the halftime break, Griner had 21 points on 9-of-10 shooting and five rebounds. She was 13-for-16 from the field by the time the game was over.
Monday's game at Delaware marks the end of a six-game stretch away from the friendly confines of John J. Lee Amphitheater for Yale. The rules of the road have been routine for the Bulldogs, with 14 of their first 20 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.
Milestone Watch for Vasquez
Following 22 points vs. Houston and 12 more against Texas-Pan American in the David Jones Classic, junior guard Megan Vasquez has now scored 783 career points. She needs just 217 points to reach 1,000 career points. She has three 20-point outings this season. She also scored 23 points in the season-opening win over Holy Cross, 11 points against Fairleigh Dickinson, and a team-high 21 points at Marist. 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.