Game Day Central: Yale Closes Out Chicago Trip at Northwestern

Janna Graf. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Janna Graf. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Game #5

Yale Bulldogs (1-3, 0-0 Ivy League) at Northwestern Wildcats (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten)


Opening Tip

The Yale women's basketball team will close out its Thanksgiving week trip to Chicago with a game at Northwestern. While this game will reunite the Bulldogs with former assistant coach Allison Guth, there is a game to be won and Yale is looking to bounce back from Monday's loss at DePaul. Yale enters the Wednesday's afternoon affair with four players scoring in double figures, led by last year's Ivy League Rookie of the Year, Sarah Halejian (15.0 ppg.), and freshman guard Nyasha Sarju (11.3 ppg.). Northwestern is 3-0 record, but the Bulldogs proved against DePaul that they will battle hard to come away with the victory.




Scouting Northwestern

Northwestern enters Wednesday's game with an unbeaten 3-0 record, and there is no secret to how the Wildcats are winning games — defense and rebounding. The Wildcats are holding teams to just 62.0 points per game and an average shooting percentage of just 32.7 percent, while they are outrebounding their opponents by an average of 6.7 rebounds per game. Northwestern is also outscoring opposing teams by an average margin of 12.0 points per game. The Wildcats also rely on their starters to lead them to victory. The five starters average at least 28.3 minutes per game, with Maggie Lyon (36.3) and Kendall Hackney (35.0) leading the way. Lyon and Hackney are also carrying a bulk of the scoring load, with both averaging 16.7 points per game, but guard Karly Roser (9.7 ppg.) is the only starter averging less than 10 points. The five starters are also dominating the boards, accounting for 102 of the team's 141 rebounds (72.3 percent). 


Series History

Prior to Wednesday's meeting, Northwestern and Yale have met only two other times, with both games being played at Northwestern. Yale dropped a 73-56 decision on Dec. 2, 1992, during Cecelia DeMarco's tenure as Yale's head coach. The team's met 10 years later during a tournament hosted by Northwestern, with the Wildcats coming away with a 54-44 win on Dec. 6, 2002, during Amy Backus' time as the Bulldogs' coach. Counting Wednesday's meeting, all three games in the series have come exactly 10 years apart. 


Ciao, Italia

Northwestern started its season a little earlier than most, spending the first week of September touring Italy. The Wildcats went 4-0 during the week, defeating Gianst Marghera (84-61). Team Crema (67-58), Virtus La Spezia (72-58) and Basket Pomezia (84-27). 


Strong Start for Douglas

Northwestern freshman forward Lauren Douglas brought home the first Big Ten Freshman of the Week award for the season. The Collierville, Tenn., native received the accolades for averaging 13.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game in NU's opening weekend of play. She posted her first collegiate double-double against Central Michigan, finishing with 20 points and 10 rebounds while adding two assists and two blocks in the win. She is currently fourth on the team in scoring (10.7 ppg.) and fifth in rebounding (6.0 rpg.).


Fast Start for Guth

Former Yale assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Allison Guth is already off to a fast start in the same position at Northwestern. The Wildcats announced last week the signing of four freshmen for next season. The Wildcats will welcome forward Nia Coffey (Minneapolis, Minn./Hopkins), guard Ashley Deary (Flower Mound, Tex./Flower Mound), guard Christen Inman (Katy, Tex./Seven Lakes) and center Allie Tuttle (Cary, N.C./Panther Creek) into the program beginning next season. The four-player class was ranked No. 2 in the Big Ten, and No. 22 in the nation, by a national recruiting publication.


Tall Order

Of the 15 players on Northwestern's roster, nine players are 6'1" or taller, and ffive of them are at least 6'3" with junior center Anna Cole leading the towering post brigade at 6-foot-7, giving Northwestern a significant height advantage going into Wednesday's contest against Yale. All but one of Northwestern's players (reserve guard Nof Kedem, 5'6") are at least 5'9". Yale's roster features seven players that are at least six feet tall, but two of them are on the sidelines with Alexandra Osborn-Jones (6'1") and Arrice Bryant (6'2") out with injury.




Celebrating History

The 2012-13 season marks the 40th season of women's basketball at Yale University. In 1972-73, women's basketball appeared on the Yale scene as a club sport and became a varsity sport the following year. The Bulldogs made an impressive Ivy debut, finishing second in the League in 1974-75. In 1976, Louise O'Neal was hired as the first full-time women's basketball coach and Yale won its first Ivy League championship in 1978-79. The Bulldogs have won 438 games since their debut. A total of nine men and women have coached women's basketball at Yale, and there have been 35 women who have been named captain in those 40 seasons. In its 40 seasons, the women's basketball team has seen one player win Ivy League Player of the Year award (Tonya Lawrence, 1988-89), four Ivy League Rookies of the Year (Sarah Halejian, 2011-12; Melissa Colborne, 2006-07; Katy Grubbs, 1995-96; Mary Kalich, 1991-92), 18 players on the All-Ivy League First Team, and 17 players score more than 1,000 career points. Throughout the season, Yale will be celebrating the program's historic achievement.


Downed by DePaul

Yale's Thanksgiving week trip to Chicago didn't get the start the Bulldogs were hoping for. In the second-ever meeting between the two teams, DePaul avoided Yale's upset bid, holding on for a 95-80 victory Monday night. Sophomore guard Sarah Halejian had 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting with four assists, while freshman guard Nyasha Sarju also had 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting with four rebounds to lead the Bulldogs in the first of two games in the Windy City. Six Yale players scored at least nine points in the loss. Senior captain Allie Messimer scored a season-high 13 points, while freshman forward Meredith Boardman, whose hometown of Oak Park, Ill., is just west of Chicago, recorded nine points and five rebounds. Senior guard Megan Vasquez tallied nine points and six rebounds, while junior guard Janna Graf added nine points and three assists. Yale led twice in the opening half and opened the second half with an 18-6 run to make it a one-possession game at 52-49, but DePaul responded with a 13-2 run that effectively put the game out of reach. Yale couldn't get any closer than eight points the rest of the way.


Victory Dance

Yale rallied to its first win of the season, an 84-82 victory over Houston in New Haven on Saturday. Trailing 17-6 after a slow start, the Bulldogs recovered in time to pull within two points, 37-35, at halftime. The Bulldogs dominated the start of the second half, jumping out to a 48-41 lead after opening the period with a 13-4 run that was fueled by an eight-point burst by Sarah Halejian, who finished with 17 points. Trailing 68-61 with 8:59 left, Houston regained control of the game with a 12-0 run to take a 73-68 lead with 5:55 left. The Bulldogs responded and reclaimed control of the game with a 12-0 run of their own to take an 80-73 lead with 2:31 left in the game. Houston closed the game with a 9-4 run and had a chance to win at the buzzer, but Marissa Ashton's desperation shot hit the rim and bounced away, giving Yale its first win of the 2012-13 season. Yale outrebounded Houston 50-47, and in the first half, despite the early struggles, the Bulldogs used that hustle under the glass to grab a 28-18 rebounding edge.


Keita's Career Night

Zenab Keita, the Bulldogs' junior center, recorded her first career double-double with career-highs in points (18) and rebounds (11) to lead Yale to an 84-82 win over Houston Saturday night. En route to the double-double, Keita set career-bests in field goals made (6) and attempted (12) and she was a perfect 6-for-6 from the free-throw line. Her eight defensive rebounds and four assists were also a career-high, while her three blocks matched a career-high.


More Shining Stars vs. Houston

Keita was not the only Bulldog having a career night against the Cougars. Sophomore guard Sarah Halejian scored 17 points, falling one point shy of her career-high of 18, but she set a career-high mark in field goals made (7) in the victory. Freshman Meredith Boardman tallied 11 points, nine rebounds, seven offensive rebounds and five assists, setting season-high marks in all four categories. Five Bulldogs in all scored in double figures with junior guard Janna Graf pouring in 16 points and senior guard Megan Vasquez adding 12 points.


Next Up

Yale gets a few days off before returning to the court on Wednesday, Nov. 28, when it will host in-state rival Quinnipiac. The Bobcats were the preseason favorite to win the Northeast Conference and are 2-0 after road victories at James Madison and UMass. It will be the 17th meeting between Quinnipiac and Yale. The Bobcats lead the all-time series, 9-7. Yale fell at Quinnipiac last season, 68-63, but in the last meeting at Yale, the Bulldogs pulled out a 74-68 victory.


Welcome to Yale

Yale welcomes five new faces to the roster in 2012-13. Lauren Thomer replaces Allison Guth as an assistant coach and Yale's recruiting coordinator. Four players have also been added to the roster as freshman for the 2012-13 season. Guards Whitney Wyckoff and Nyasha Sarju, forward Meredith Boardman, and center Emmy Allen, are all expected to play a big part in the Bulldogs' plans this season. Allen, a 6-foot-3 center, was rated as the 27th top post player in the nation by ESPN last year. Boardman, a 6-foot-1 forward, was listed among the Chicago area's top 50 players by the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune. Sarju, a 6-foot-tall shooting guard from Seattle, Wash., was listed as the 56th best wing player in the nation by ESPN. Wyckoff, a 5-foot-9 guard from West Chester, Ohio, was averaging 12.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.3 steals, 2.3 assists and 2.0 blocks per game through the first four games of the season at Lakota East High School before suffering a season-ending knee injury.


Sarju Spectacular

Yale's best effort in its 87-71 opening loss at Holy Cross came from a surprising source. Freshman guard Nyasha Sarju may have been making her collegiate debut, but she showed a veteran presence on the court, leading the Bulldogs with 18 points on 7-for-17 shooting, 4-for-8 from 3-point range, in 27 minutes off the bench. She also tallied three rebounds, one assist and one steal, making her first game in a Yale uniform a memorable one. In the home loss to New Hampshire, Sarju was Yale's second-highest scorer, following up her debut with a nine-point effort. She is currently tied with sophomore guard Sarah Halejian atop Yale's scoring leaderboard, with an average of 13.5 points per game.


500 for Gobrecht

Yale head coach Chris Gobrecht was the fourth coach during the 2011-12 season to surpass 500 career victories with Yale's 86-73 win over Cornell on Feb. 10, 2012. Gobrecht currently holds a 504-431 overall record, all at the Division I level. Holy Cross coach Bill Gibbons became the first of the six to reach 500 wins on Dec. 3, 2011. DePaul head coach Doug Bruno (12/31) and Kennesaw State head coach Colby Tilly (1/7) also joined the 500-win club last season. Gobrecht has coached for five programs in her career. She went 84-92 at Cal-State Fullerton, 243-89 at Washington, where she is the Huskies' all-time winningest head coach, 5-22 in one season at Florida State, and 93-108 at Southern California, her alma mater. To date, Gobrecht is 79-119 in her eight seasons at Yale, which matches Diann Nestel (79-78) for the second most coaching victories in Yale's history. Gobrecht needs 28 more wins to match Cecelia DeMarco (107-127), Yale's all-time winningest head coach.


Oh Captain, My Captain

Senior Allie Messimer takes over for Michelle Cashen '12 as Yale's captain for the 2012-13 season, the 35th captain in Yale's 40 seasons. Messimer has served as one of Yale's top reserves in her career. On the court, she is one of Yale's top outside threats, leading the team in 3-point shooting percentage last season. Off the court, she has been a driving force behind Yale's annual Pink Zone plans.


Rookie Sensation

Sophomore guard Sarah Halejian made quite the first impression in her first season at Yale. Halejian became just the fourth Yale player to be named the Ivy League's Rookie of the Year, joining Melissa Colborne (2006-07), Katy Grubbs, (1995-96) and Mary Kalich (1991-92). Halejian played in all 28 games for the Bulldogs with 22 starts, including starts in the final 20 games of the season. She averaged 8.1 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game in her rookie season. Her best month of the season came in a seven-game stretch in January where she averaged 12.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists, earning four consecutive Rookie of the Week honors in the month. She ended the season with six Ivy League Rookie of the Week awards, tying the Yale record for the most Rookie of the Week awards in a season by a single player.


Follow the Bulldogs

Be sure to follow the Yale women's basektball team throughout the 2012-13 season on Twitter (@YaleWBBDawgz) and on Facebook ("Yale WBB").

Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity