Game Day Central: Yale Heads to West Point to Battle Army

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

Game #7

Yale Bulldogs (1-5, 0-0 Ivy League) at Army Black Knights (6-1, 0-0 Patriot League)


Opening Tip

The Yale women's basketball team hits the road seeking to end a three-game losing streak, but that task will not be an easy one. The Bulldogs visit West Point, N.Y., to take on an Army squad that is 6-1 and has won its last five games. The Bulldogs are looking for their first win at Army since a 73-49 victory on Jan. 14, 1998. Yale heads to West Point with four players scoring in double figures, with Sarah Halejian's 13.7 ppg. leading the way. Janna Graf and Nyasha Sarju are both averaging 10.2 ppg., while Megan Vasquez is averaging 10.0 ppg.




Scouting Army

Army has relied almost entirely on its starting lineup to open up its season with six wins in its first seven games. The five starters are averaging at least 26.7 minutes per game, with three of them averaging more than 30 minutes per game. All five starters are averaging at least 9.0 points per game with four averaging in double figures. After the five starters, no Army player is averaging more than 2.3 ppg., and only two reserves are playing more than 10 minutes per game. The starters have proven more than capable of carrying the load for the Black Knights. Two are essentially averaging a double-double, with Olivia Schretzman averaging 13.4 ppg. and 9.9 rpg. and Aimee Oertner posting 11.9 ppg. and 10.0 rpg. Oertner is also averaging 3.6 blocks per game. Defense and rebounding have been the secret to the Black Knights' success. They are outrebounding opponents by an average of 9.3 rpg., and they have held five of their seven opponents to less than 60 points. Only Air Force (68) and Wagner (62) have scored more than 60 points against Army's tenacious defense.


Series History

Saturday's meeting will be the 27th meeting between Army and Yale and the 14th meeting in West Point, N.Y. Army holds an overall advantage of 16-10, but the Black Knights have been nearly unbeatable at home with a 12-1 record at home over the Bulldogs. Yale held off Army, 63-62, in John J. Lee Amphitheater last season, but the Bulldogs have not won back-to-back meetings since the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons. Yale's only victory at Army came in dominating fashion, a 73-49 win on Jan. 14, 1998. Yale is 2-1 over Army during Chris Gobrecht's tenure as the Bulldogs' head coach, with the home team winning all three meetings. 


Icing the Ivy League

Saturday's game against Yale will be the third of four games against an Ivy League opponent for Army this season. So far, the Black Knights have earned wins over Penn (58-53) and Columbia (61-51). Army had to rally to beat Columbia, outscoring the Lions 32-18 over the final 15 minutes to earn the win. Army will visit Brown on Jan. 2, the Black Knights' only road game against Ivy opponents.


Lead Blocker

It did not take long for freshman forward Aimee Oertner to make her presence felt in the Army lineup. Oertner has started all seven games and is averaging a double-double with 11.9 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. But most impressive has been Oertner's play on the defensive side of the court. Through the first seven games of her career, Oertner has recorded 25 blocks, including a whopping six rejections against Weber State, three shy of Army's single-game record. Her 25 blocks (3.6 bpg.) are more than any Army player recorded through 30 games last season. Junior guard Jen Hazlett was the Black Knights' leading blocker in 2011-12 with 19.


Return to West Point

Lauren Thomer, who is in her first season as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator on Chris Gobrecht's staff at Yale, is returning to Army for the first time since the 2008-09 season. Thomer started her college coaching career at Army, where she spent three years working under head coach Dave Magarity. Thomer served as an assistant coach at Army for two seasons, helping the team to a 37-24 record over that span. During her time at Army, she helped to develop the winningest senior class in Army's history, and she mentored four players who earned a total of seven All-Patriot League awards. Prior to that stint, Thomer served as head women's basketball coach of the U.S. Military Academy Prep School (USMAPS) for one season.





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.


From Way Downtown

Yale's 3-point shooting prowess is among the best in the nation, according to the NCAA. The NCAA released its first statistical rankings on Nov. 26, and Yale is ranked No. 8 among the nation's 343 Division I schools in 3-pointers made per game. The Bulldogs' 8.6 3-pointers made per game is tied with UConn, the No. 2-ranked team in the country. Yale is 24th in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (38.7 percent). Yale's scoring offense (72.2 points per game) is the best in the Ivy League and is ranked No. 53 in the nation. On the defensive end, Yale's 3-point shooting defense is ranked 28th in the country. The Bulldogs are holding teams to just 21.4 percent.


First Award for Sarju

Yale freshman guard Nyasha Sarju was named the Ivy League's Rookie of the Week on Nov. 26. She earns her first career Ivy League honor after averaging 13.5 points and 3.0 rebounds in Yale's two games at DePaul and Northwestern last week. In both games, Sarju saved her best for the second half. In the 95-80 loss at Big East powerhouse DePaul, Sarju scored a team-high 16 points to go with four rebounds, two assists and two steals in 22 minutes off the bench. In the second half of that game, Sarju scored 12 of her points on a stellar 5-of-6 shooting and tallied the first blocked shot of her Yale career. In the 83-75 loss at Big Ten opponent Northwestern, Sarju scored all 11 points of her points in the second half. Sarju is currently second on the team in scoring, averaging 11.3 points per game.


Stunned by Quinnipiac

Yale dropped its third straight game in a stunning 89-62 home loss to Quinnipiac on Nov. 28. Three Yale players scored 11 points apiece, with Sarah Halejian, Amanda Tyson and Megan Vasquez all hitting the mark. Yale led 9-8 with 14:23 left in the first half. It was the Bulldogs' only lead of the game. Quinnipiac seized control with a 22-3 run that gave the Bobcats a commanding 30-12 lead with 5:01 left in the half. The Bobcats' lead grew to 33 points in the second half and Yale never was able to get on track, turning the ball over a season-high 26 times in the loss. 


Fight to the Finish

Yale closed the game with a 13-1 run, but it was not enough to complete a rally from an 82-62 deficit. The Bulldogs fell just short in an 83-75 loss at Northwestern on Nov. 21. The Bulldogs reunited with former assistant coach Allison Guth, whose squad used a 17-0 run in the second half to open up the big lead, but it turned out to be a shaky finish for the Wildcats. Megan Vasquez scored 21 points in the loss. It was the 15th time in her career that she scored at least 20 points in a game. Sarah Halejian and Nyasha Sarju each scored 11 points. Janna Graf finished with nine points and 12 rebounds.


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 on Nov. 19. Sarah Halejian had 16 points and four assists, while freshman guard Nyasha Sarju also had 16 points 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. 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. Yale led twice in the first 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 for the Bulldogs.


Victory Dance

Yale rallied to its first win of the season, an 84-82 victory over Houston in New Haven on Nov. 17. 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.


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. 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 win. 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 Janna Graf pouring in 16 points and Megan Vasquez adding 12 points.


Scoring Points

  • Yale has scored at least 75 points three times this season, but has only one win to show for it, an 84-82 win over Houston before a 95-80 loss at DePaul and an 83-75 loss at Northwestern. Yale scored at least 75 points on seven occasions in 2011-12, all victories (vs. Holy Cross, at FDU, at Houston, vs. Baruch, at Brown, at Dartmouth, vs. Cornell). in 2010-11, Yale surpassed 75 points only three times, all in winning fashion (vs. Florida State, vs. Harvard, at Harvard).
  • Yale is ranked No. 8 among the nation's 343 Division I schools in 3-pointers made per game. The Bulldogs' 8.6 3-pointers made per game is tied with UConn, the No. 2-ranked team in the country.
  • Yale is 24th in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (38.7 percent).
  • On the defensive end, Yale's 3-point shooting defense is ranked 28th in the country. The Bulldogs are holding teams to just 22.5 percent.
  • Zenab Keita ranks No. 107 in blocks per game with 1.6.
  • Yale leads the Ivy League in scoring (70.5 ppg.) and 3-pointers made per game (8.7).
  • Yale is second in the Ivy League in assists (13.8 apg.), free-throw percentage (72.4 percent), 3-point shooting percentage (39.4 percent), Defensive 3-point shooting percentage (22.5 percent), and offensive rebounds (16.2 orpg.).
  • The Bulldogs are 1-2 at home this season, 0-3 in games away from Yale.


Next Up

Yale returns home on Tuesday to face Fordham for the first meeting between the two teams since the 2010-11 season. The game is scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. inside the friendly confines of John J. Lee Amphitheater. In the previous meeting, the Bulldogs visited Fordham's Bronx, N.Y. campus to take on the Rams in the opening game of the Fordham holiday tournament on Dec. 29, 2010. Fordham used an 18-0 second-half run to pull out a 62-44 win over Yale. Mady Gobrecht led the Bulldogs with 13 points in the loss.


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