Yale Bulldogs (4-9, 0-0 Ivy League) at Bryant Bulldogs (4-10, 0-4 NEC)
Opening Tip: After an 11-day break, Yale will close out the non-league portion of the 2012-13 schedule when it travels to Rhode Island to visit Bryant for the first meeting between the two teams since the 2009-10 season. Yale is facing a Bryant squad that has lost its last six games. Yale is looking to maintain the momentum gained from its 82-62 win over Bucknell on Jan. 5. Yale is led by sophomore guard Sarah Halejian, the team leader in scoring (13.3 points per game) and assists (3.2 assists per game). Junior guard Janna Graf is leading Yale in steals (27 total steals) and is second on the team in scoring (12.2 ppg.) and rebounding (5.0 rpg.).
Bryant started its season with just one win in its first five games, but appeared to find its way with four straight victories, including wins over Ivy League opponents Brown (81-58) and Columbia (68-54). However, after beating Maine 44-40 on Dec. 10, Bryant has not recorded a victory since, losing its last six games, including four Northeast Conference games, to fall to 4-10 overall and 0-4 in NEC play. Bryant has struggled to score during its losing streak, scoring more than 66 points only twice in the six losses. Bryant is averaging just 61.6 points per game, while allowing opponents to score 66.9 points per game. Bryant does have its advantages under the basket, where it is pulling down 42.9 rebounds per game and outrebounding opponents by 1.7 rebounds per game. Bryant is led by junior forward Naana Ankoma-Mensa, who is the team's top scorer (12.6 ppg.) and rebounder (11.4 rpg.). Junior guard Courtney Schissler is second on the team in scoring (11.8 ppg.) and rebounding (6.1 rpg.), and she is the team's leading 3-point shooter, with 20 made threes (1.4 per game).
Yale and Bryant have only met twice prior to Wednesday's game, with the all-time series tied at 1-1. The home team won both of the previous meetings, with Yale earning a 77-71 home win on Jan 13, 2009, and Bryant tying the series with a 69-62 home win on Jan. 18, 2010. In Yale's victory, junior Melissa Colborne led Yale with 25 points, while sophomore Mady Gobrecht tallied game highs with 11 rebounds, eight assists and four steals. Sophomore Yoyo Greenfield scored 19 points. Bryant was able to tie the series despite a game-high 19 points and eight rebounds from freshman Megan Vasquez. Bryant led by 19 with 15:48 left in the game before Yale stormed back with a 20-3 run to cut the deficit to just two points. Bryant stopped Yale's run and held on for the win.
Bryant's roster includes four students who call Connecticut home, including senior Raquel Cordeiro (Danbury), the team's student manager. Junior guard Courtney Schissler is a former Branford High standout, while junior guard Jenniqua Bailey, the team's No. 4 scorer (7.6 ppg.) is a Bloomfield native and former star at Northwest Catholic High School. Sophomore reserve Melissa Corraro was a four-year letter winner at Shelton High.
Division I Move Completed
After the completion of the NCAA-mandated four-year transition period that began in 2008-09, Bryant University became a full and official member of Division I, effective Sept. 1, 2012. With the transition now complete, the Bulldogs enter into their first year with full NCAA and Northeast Conference (NEC) postseason eligibility. The 2012-13 campaign is the program's fifth competing at the Division I level and fourth playing within the NEC, of which Bryant is the 12th full member.
Bryant represents the fourth opponent on Yale's 2012-13 schedule from the Northeast Conference. Entering Wednesday's game, Yale is 1-2 against NEC opponents, with a 66-62 overtime win at St. Francis Brooklyn and losses to in-state rivals Quinnipiac (89-62) and Sacred Heart (67-62).
Big Numbers from Naana
Junior forward Naana Ankoma-Mensa, Bryant's leading scorer and rebounder, has posted six double-doubles this season, but none were as big as the show that she put on against St. Francis (Pa.). Ankoma-Mensa posted 25 points and 22 rebounds in an 81-76 loss in Bryant's NEC opener. Both numbers were career-highs for Ankoma-Mensa, and the 22 rebounds set a new program record.
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.
Reigning Supreme over the Bison
Yale cruised to an 82-62 win over Bucknell on Jan. 5. It was Yale's fourth straight win over Bucknell and the second straight win by the Bulldogs by a margin of at least 20 points. The Bulldogs forced 26 Bucknell turnovers and used those miscues to score 36 points on the offensive end. Four players scored in double figures, led by Megan Vasquez, who came off the bench to score 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting. She also had five rebounds. Sarah Halejian scored 15 points and added four assists and three rebounds. Janna Graf and Zenab Keita each added 14 points and three assists. Yale shot 31-for-61 (50.8 percent), which was its best shooting performance of the season, just edging out the 25-for-50 showing (50.0 percent) against Fordham on Dec. 4.
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 Jan. 13, and Yale was ranked No. 8 among the nation's 343 Division I schools in 3-pointers made per game with 8.5 3-pointers per game. Yale was No. 26 in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (35.5 percent). On the defensive end, Yale's 3-point shooting defense was ranked 36th in the country. The Bulldogs were holding teams to just 26.1 percent.
Quest for Ivy Glory Begins
The quest for the Ivy League championship is now under way as Princeton and Harvard dominated in their respective Ivy League openers on Jan. 12 to tip off the double round-robin schedule. As the only Division I conference without a postseason tournament, the Ivy League's 14-game conference slate becomes the "tournament" to determine which Ivy team wins the title and earns an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament. The team that finishes the season in second place earns the Ivy League's automatic bid to the Women's National Invitational Tournament. Yale earned its first-ever WNIT bid in 2011 after finishing a program-best 10-4 in league play. The Bulldogs begin Ivy League play at Brown on Friday. Princeton is the three-time defending Ivy League champion. Yale is pursuing its first Ivy League championship since the 1978-79 season, when the league champion was determined in a mid-season tournament
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 past Diann Nestel (79-78) and into sole possession of second place on Yale's all-time coaching victories list. After the win over Bucknell on Jan. 5, Gobrecht now has 82 wins and is now 25 wins behind Cecelia DeMarco (107-127), Yale's all-time winningest head coach.
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 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 begin its Ivy League season with a home-and-series against Brown beginning with Saturday's 4 p.m. showdown in New Haven. The Bulldogs and Bears close out their season series at 6 p.m. on Jan. 25 at Brown. Yale has won four of the last five meetings, but the teams split their series last season, with the road team winning both games.
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Report filed by Jon Erickson, Jr., Yale Sports Publicity