Yale Bulldogs (1-6, 0-0 Ivy League) vs. Fordham Rams (5-2, 0-0 Atlantic 10)
The Yale women's basketball team returns home Tuesday with the hope of ending its four-game losing streak, but that task will not be an easy one. The Bulldogs play host to Fordham, a team that the Bulldogs have not beaten since the 1986-87 season. Yale is coming off of a tough loss at Army in which freshman guard Nyasha Sarju became the first Bulldog this season to record at least five 3-pointers in a game, shooting 5-for-7 from 3-point range against the Black Knights. Sarju has averaged 2.1 made 3-pointers per game. If she maintains that pace, she could challenge Yale's single-season record of 62, set by Maria Smear in 2000-01 and matched by Jamie Van Horne in 2008-09. Sarju is second on the team in scoring (10.9 ppg.) behind sophomore guard Sarah Halejian's 13.4 ppg.
Fordham has relied on its defense to jump out to a 5-2 start to its season. The Rams are coming off of a 51-48 loss at Marquette. Prior to that, the Rams were 5-1, which is the best start since the 1996-97 season. Still, the 5-2 start is Fordham's best in 10 years. The Rams' defense has been the key to the sizzling start, holding opposing offenses to just 48.1 points per game, which ranks No. 8 in the nation and leads the Atlantic 10 Conference. The key number is 50 as the Rams have won all five games in which they have held teams below 50 points. In the two losses, the Rams allowed Pacific (62) and Marquette (51) to break the 50-point barrier. Fordham's opponents are shooting just 35.0 percent from the floor and 21.3 percent from 3-point range. Two keys to Fordham's defense are junior Erin Rooney, a transfer from Monmouth, and senior Arielle Collins. Rooney ranks second on the team in steals (12), while Collins leads the team in steals (14) and is second in blocks (3).
Tuesday's meeting will be the 16th meeting between Fordham and Yale. Fordham holds an 11-5 record over Yale, but is 3-4 in games played in John J. Lee Amphitheater. However, the last time Yale defeated Fordham was on Dec. 9, 1986, a 92-74 victory in New Haven. Fordham has won the last six meetings, including the most recent meeting in the opening game of the 2010 Fordham Holiday Classic, 62-44, on Dec. 29, 2010.
Making Up for Lost Time
Erin Rooney and Marah Strickland both missed all of last season, with Rooney sitting out after transferring from Monmouth and Strickland missing the year due to illness. Strickland is leading the Rams with 14.3, while Rooney is averaging 12.6 points per game.
Catching Up to Gobrecht
Stephanie Gaitley is in her second season as Fordham's head coach, but it is her 27th season as a head coach. She has compiled a 481-290 record in her coaching career with stops at Monmouth, Long Island University, St. Joseph's and Richmond. She is the all-time winningest coach at Richmond, St. Joseph's and LIU. She has 12 20-win seasons and needs just 19 wins to reach 500 career victories, a feat that Yale head coach Chris Gobrecht reached last season.
Junior tri-captain Abigail Corning is the lone player on the Fordham roster from the state of Connecticut. She is one of two returning players who averaged in double figures last season (10.5 ppg.), starting all 30 games in 2011-12. The Wethersfield native was a four-year varsity player at Wethersfield High School, where she earned the Hartford Courant's 2009-10 Player of the Year award. At Wethersfield, she set the school's career scoring record with 1,448 points. She is currently averaging 6.7 points and 6.7 rebounds for the Rams.
In the first 40 years of women's basketball at Fordham, eight players hailed from other countries. With three international players currently on the roster, the Rams have boosted that number to 11. Senior Christine Stoddart (Manchester, England), junior Erin Rooney (Christchurch, New Zealand) and sophomore Christina Gaskin (Hockley, England) are all key players on the Rams roster. Stoddart is averaging 5.7 points and 3.0 rebounds, while Rooney, who played for Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley at Monmouth before transferring to Fordham, is second on the team in scoring (12.6 ppg.). Gaskin started 29 of 30 games last season as a freshman.
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 Dec. 3, and Yale is ranked No. 6 among the nation's 343 Division I schools in 3-pointers made per game with 8.7 3-pointers per game. Yale is 13th in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (39.1 percent). On the defensive end, Yale's 3-point shooting defense is ranked 19th in the country. The Bulldogs are holding teams to just 21.5 percent.
Sarju Sizzles Behind the Arc
A big reason for Yale's 3-point shooting success is freshman guard Nyasha Sarju. Yale's second-leading scorer (10.9 ppg.) is leading the Bulldogs with 2.14 made 3-pointers per game. She is among the nation's best 3-point shooters. She is shooting 15-for-28 from 3-point range, a success rate of 53.6 percent, which is currently ranked No. 9 in the country, according to the NCAA rankings released on Dec. 3. She is currently on pace for 60 made 3-pointers this season. If she continues on that pace, she will challenge Yale's single-season record of 62 made 3-pointers, which was set by Maria Smear in 2000-01 and matched by Jamie Van Horne in 2008-09.
Battle Lost at Army
Despite 15 points from freshman guard Nyasha Sarju, all on five 3-pointers, and 12 points from sophomore guard Sarah Halejian, Yale dropped its fourth straight loss of the season in a 53-47 defeat at Army. Guard Anna Simmers scored a game-high 24 points to lead the Black Knights, who defeated Yale for the 13th time in 14 meetings in West Point, N.Y. In the loss, Sarju became the first Bulldog this season to make at least five 3-pointers in a game. She is the first Yale player to accomplish the feat since Megan Vasquez did so on Feb. 12, 2012, against Columbia. Yale opened the game with a 10-0 run and led 20-10 before Army closed the first half with a 12-0 run to take a 22-20 halftime lead. The Bulldogs led 32-31 with 13:26 left, but Army outscored Yale 18-10 over the next 6:10 to put the game out of reach.
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.
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.
Yale returns to the road to visit Northeast Conference opponent St. Francis (N.Y.) in Brooklyn Saturday afternoon. The game is scheduled to tip off at 2 p.m. in the Pope Physical Education Center. In the previous meeting, the Bulldogs hosted the Terriers on Dec. 18, 2011. Yale earned the 72-41 win behind the play of Megan Vasquez, who led the Bulldogs with 19 points, five assists and five steals. Freshman guard Sarah Halejian had 14 points for the Bulldogs, who saw seven players score at least six points and four players grab at least five rebounds including a team-high six rebounds by freshman center Arrice Bryant.
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Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity