Yale Bulldogs (3-8, 0-0 Ivy League) at Sacred Heart Pioneers (7-4, 0-0 NEC)
With just three non-league games remaining before Ivy League play begins, Yale will ring in the new year with a game at in-state rival Sacred Heart. The Bulldogs are looking for their first win over the Pioneers since an 84-43 victory in the second game of the Yale Tip-Off Tournament on Nov. 25, 1979. Yale is trying to bounce back from a pair of losses against Marist at home and Georgetown in Washington, D.C. Yale is led by sophomore guard Sarah Halejian, who is the only Bulldog to score in double figures in every one of Yale's 11 games this season. Halejian, last year's Ivy League Rookie of the Year, is leading Yale in scoring (13.5 points per game) and assists (35 total assists). Junior guard Janna Graf is leading the Bulldogs in rebounding (5.4 rpg.) and steals (24 total steals) and is second on the team in scoring (11.6 ppg.)
Scouting Sacred Heart
Sacred Heart enters Wednesday's game with a 7-4 overall record, having won four of its last five games, with the only loss coming at Stony Brook on Dec. 4 (51-46). The Pioneers lost two of their first three games, including its season-opener at Georgetown, the only common opponent with Yale at this stage of the season. However, the Pioneers have since won six of their last eight games. Sacred Heart is scoring an average of 62.6 points per game, allowing just 58.3 points per game. All four of Sacred Heart's losses have come when it has allowed more than 63 points. The Pioneers are led by three players scoring in double figures, including 2012 Northeast Conference Rookie of the Year Gabrielle Washington, who is averaging 16.7 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. Morgan Merriman is second on the team in scoring (12.5 ppg.) and rebounding (5.3 rpg.), while Kiley Evans is averaging 11.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. As a team, the Pioneers rely on their defensive effort to win games, forcing opponents to turn the ball over 23.2 times per game, while recording 12.0 steals per game. Sacred Heart is 4-0 at home this season.
This is the 15th meeting between the two programs, with Sacred Heart holding an 11-3 advantage in the all-time series that dates back to the 1976-77 season. Yale won three of the first four meetings, but the last Bulldog victory in the series came in an 84-43 victory in the second game of the Yale Tip-Off Tournament on Nov. 25, 1979. Following that Yale victory, the series took a hiatus that lasted 19 seasons until it was renewed in the 1999-2000 season. Since then, the two teams have met in 10 out of the last 13 seasons, with Sacred Heart winning 10 straight meetings with Yale.
Last Time vs. Yale
In the last meeting between the two teams, on Dec. 8, 2010, Yale held a 37-31 halftime lead only to watch Sacred Heart turn things around in the second half and escape John J. Lee Amphitheater with a 70-69 win. The loss dropped Yale to 1-7 on the season, but it was the Bulldogs' last loss before they stunned No. 14 Florida State for their historic first win over a nationally ranked opponent. In the losing effort, senior forward Mady Gobrecht matched her career-high with 18 points to go with seven rebounds and five assists, shooting 6-for-7 from the floor and 6-for-8 from the foul line. Callan Taylor scored 14 of her game-high 20 points in the second half to lead Sacred Heart to the victory.
Sacred Heart's key to success this season is its defensive pressure. The Pioneers have forced at least 20 turnovers by their opponents in 10 of their 11 games, including their last six games. The only game that the Pioneers did not force at least 20 turnovers came in a 54-48 win over ACC powerhouse Boston College, which turned the ball over 18 times in the loss. Sacred Heart has forced more than 25 turnovers in four games, but is just 1-3 in those games, losing to Liberty (29 turnovers), Seattle (27) and Stony Brook (26).
Ivy League Connection
Kelly Killion, a former assistant coach at Penn, is in her first season as an assistant coach at Sacred Heart. She joins Kara Powell as a first-year assistant on head coach Ed Swanson's staff at Sacred Heart. Killion spent two seasons at Penn, helping to lead the Quakers to the largest single-season turnaround in program history. During her tenure with the Quakers, Killion worked primarily with the guards, heling Alyssa Baron become the first freshman in Ivy history to lead the league in scoring.
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 441 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.
Sugar Not Sweet to Yale
Yale visited the nation's capital but struggled to make history as Sugar Rodgers scored 38 points to lead Georgetown to a 90-67 win over the Bulldogs. Janna Graf matched a season-high with 18 points on six 3-pointers to lead Yale, while Sarah Halejian recorded 15 points, a career-high nine assists and five rebounds. Yale tried to stay within striking distance in the second half. Georgetown twice pushed its lead to 20 points, but the Bulldogs managed to trim that deficit down to 11 points, 76-65, with 3:25 left on Graf's sixth 3-pointer of the night.
Win Streak Snapped
Yale dropped a tough home loss to Marist on Dec. 20 after the Red Foxes closed the game with a 13-4 run over the final 5:14 to secure the 62-50 victory. Sophomore guard Sarah Halejian scored 11 points in the loss. Junior guard Janna Graf tallied nine points, four rebounds and three assists. Yale had fewer turnovers than Marist (16-14) and nearly matched the Red Foxes under the basket (39-35 rebounds). However, the Bulldogs struggled to make shots, shooting just 19-for-62 overall (30.6 percent) and 3-for-19 from 3-point range (15.8 percent). It was the second-worst shooting performance for the Bulldogs this season, just shy of the 30.3 percent shooting night in the loss to New Hampshire. The three made 3-pointers were the fewest made in a game this season.
Yale Owns OT
Sarah Halejian scored a team-high 17 points, including four of Yale's six points in overtime, to lead the Bulldogs to a 66-62 overtime win at St. Francis Brooklyn on Dec. 8. It was just the third overtime game for Yale in the eight seasons under head coach Chris Gobrecht. The only other overtime games coached by Gobrecht were a 70-66 double-overtime win at Dartmouth on Feb. 13, 2010, and a 77-73 overtime win over visiting Quinnipiac on Dec. 21, 2008. Yale is 6-0 in overtime games since the 2003-04 season. Halejian was the key to the win as 14 of her 17 points came after halftime. Janna Graf had 15 points and seven rebounds. The win was Yale's first on the road this season.
From Way Downtown
Yale's 3-point shooting prowess is among the best in the nation, according to the NCAA. The NCAA released its latest statistical rankings on Dec. 31, and Yale was ranked No. 11 among the nation's 343 Division I schools in 3-pointers made per game with 8.4 3-pointers per game. Yale was No. 29 in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (35.7 percent). On the defensive end, Yale's 3-point shooting defense was ranked 48th in the country. The Bulldogs were holding teams to just 26.2 percent.
Third Career Award for Graf
For the third time in her Yale career, junior guard Janna Graf was named the Ivy League Player of the Week on Dec. 10, following wins over Fordham and St. Francis Brooklyn. Graf earned the award after averaging 16.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 3.5 steals in the pair of wins. On Dec. 4, Graf tallied 18 points, six rebounds and five of Yale's six steals to lift the Bulldogs to a 67-53 win over Fordham. At St. Francis Brooklyn on Dec. 8, Graf closed out her week with 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals in helping to lead Yale to a 66-62 overtime victory. Graf set a new career-high with five steals against Fordham. She also matched a career-high with five made free throws in a perfect 5-for-5 showing at the foul line against Fordham. Graf has picked up her defensive play of late. She has 11 steals and 15 defensive rebounds in her last three games, an average of 5.0 rebounds and 3.7 steals per game in that span.
Janna Graf picked a great time to play her best game of the season to date. The junior guard set a new season-high with 18 points on 5-of-7 shooting to lead Yale to a 67-53 win over Fordham on Dec. 4. Graf also had six rebounds and five steals. It was Yale's first win over Fordham since a 92-74 win in New Haven on Dec. 9, 1986. Fordham had won the previous six meetings with Yale. The Bulldogs dominated for the final 26:44 of the game. Yale outscored Fordham 17-8 over the final 6:44 of the first half to take a 31-29 halftime lead, with nine of those points coming from Graf. Yale then used a 17-5 run late in the second half to open up an 18-point lead (65-47) to put the game out of reach. Yale shot 25-for-50 from the floor (50.0 percent), 7-for-14 from behind the arc (50.0 percent) and 10-for-11 from the foul line to secure the victory.
Gobrecht Climbing the Yale Ranks
Yale's 67-53 win over Fordham on Dec. 4 improved the Bulldogs' overall record to 2-4 on the season, but the victory also gave Chris Gobrecht her 80th victory as Yale's head coach, moving her into sole possession of second place on Yale's all-time coaching victories list. She moves past Diann Nestel (79-78) and after the win at St. Francis on Dec. 8, Gobrecht is now 26 wins behind Cecelia DeMarco (107-127), Yale's all-time winningest head coach.
Gobrecht on "Inside Ivy League Basketball"
Yale head coach Chris Gobrecht was the latest Yale representative on the Ivy League's on-demand radio shot. In her interview, Gobrecht discussed Yale's improving play of late, the importance of Yale's four freshmen to the team's success in 2012-13, and the current state of the Ivy League. To hear the interview, visit blogtalkradio.com/insideivyleaguebasketball.
Following Wednesday's game, Yale will return home to take on Bucknell, Yale's third opponent this season from the Patriot League. So far, Yale is 0-2 against teams from the Patriot League, falling to Army and Holy Cross earlier this season. Yale is 5-2 in the all-time series with Bucknell, winning the last three meetings, including a 69-48 win at Bucknell last season. Bucknell's last victory in the series came on Nov. 18, 2008, in a 73-70 win over Yale in New Haven.
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Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity