Game Day Central: Bulldogs Look to Bounce Back vs. Penn, Princeton

Allie Messimer. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Allie Messimer. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Game #19, Feb. 9, 2013 • 6 p.m.

Yale Bulldogs (6-12, 1-3 Ivy League) vs. Penn Quakers (9-8, 2-1 Ivy League)

Game #20, Feb. 10, 2013 • 6 p.m.

Yale Bulldogs (6-12, 1-3 Ivy League) vs. Princeton Tigers (12-5, 3-0 Ivy League)


Opening Tip

The snowy forecast has forced changes to the schedule, but Yale will still welcome Penn and Princeton to New Haven for the first meeting of the season against both teams. Yale is looking to bounce back following last week's discouraging home losses to Harvard and Dartmouth. On Saturday, Yale is hoping to avenge last season's home loss to Penn, the first win for the Quakers in New Haven since 2008. That loss officially eliminated the Bulldogs from contention for the Ivy League's automatic WNIT bid. On Sunday, Yale will look to snap Princeton's Ivy League winning streak, which currently stands at 27 straight games, which is the second-longest conference winning streak in the nation, just behind the 32 straight Big 12 wins by Baylor. The games this weekend will close out Yale's four-game Ivy League homestand. Six of the final eight games are on the road.






Scouting Penn

Penn is making its run through New Haven and Providence with some momentum following last weekend's road sweep of Cornell and Columbia, the Quakers' first two-win New York trip since 2005. Penn has won five of its last seven Ivy League road games, dating back to last season, with both losses in that span coming at Princeton. Prior to the start of the Ivy League season, Penn had won seven of nine games before a loss at Princeton and Big 5 losses to Villanova and Temple. But following the New York sweep of Cornell and Columbia, the Quakers appear to be back on track as they head to New Haven for this weekend's matchup. Penn is fifth in the Ivy League in scoring offense, averaging 56.5 points per game, but the Quaker defense is second in the league, holding opponents to just 56.9 points per game. Penn leads the Ivy League in blocked shots (4.5 bpg.). The Quakers also have the fewest turnovers in the League with just 14.1 per game. Defense is key for the Quakers, who are 7-3 in games in which they have allowed fewer than 60 points. Junior guard Alyssa Baron is Penn's leading scorer and the only player on the team averaging in double figures (14.3 ppg.) She is also the team's leading rebounder (6.1). 


Series History

In a series that dates back to 1974-75, the two teams have met 70 times. Yale leads the series with a 36-34 edge over the Quakers. Yale is 6-1 over Penn in the last seven games against Penn, but the one loss came in the final game of the regular season last year. The teams split the series last year, but Yale had swept the season series from Penn in the two seasons prior to last year. A Yale victory will prevent the first back-to-back losses to Penn since the final meeting of the 2006-07 season and the first of the 2007-08 season. Yale is 8-6 over Penn during Chris Gobrecht's tenure as Yale's head coach.


2011-12 Series

After sweeping the 2009-10 and 2010-11 season series, Yale extended its winning streak over Penn with a 72-60 win in Philadelphia on Feb. 3, 2012. Megan Vasquez led four Yale scorers in double figures with 19 points and eight rebounds, including 17 second-half points. Allie Messimer scored 12 points off the bench, while Sarah Halejian tallied 14 points and three steals. Yale trailed at halftime, 27-25, but opened the second half with a 15-3 run to pull ahead for good. The win was the 499th career coaching victory for Yale head coach Chris Gobrecht. In the rematch in New Haven, Yale needed the win to keep its WNIT hopes alive, but Penn held on in the closing minutes for a 61-58 win. Yale led 58-57 with 3:10 to play, but it missed five shots, including three layups, over the final 2:16, while Penn sank a pair of layups to pull ahead for good. Vasquez led the Bulldogs with 17 points.


Twin Towers

Sophomore 6-1 forward Kara Bonenberger and junior 6-3 forward Courtney Wilson are a big reason for Penn's inside dominance this season. Bonenberger is leading the Ivy League in blocks with 27, while Wilson is second in the league with 26 blocks. Both players are about to enter program's record books for blocks in a single season. Jess Knapp had 38 blocks in 2010-11, which is sixth all-time at Penn. Both Bonenberger and Wilson are on pace to pass that mark, but the school's record of 72 set by Katarina Poulsen in 1993-94, is probably safe this season.


Bank on Baron

Junior Alyssa Baron has started all 73 games in her Penn career. She led the Ivy League in scoring in each of the last two seasons, but is currently fourth in the league (14.3 ppg.). The 2010-11 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, she became the first freshman in Ivy League history to lead the league in scoring (16.6 ppg.) in 2010-11.







Scouting Princeton

Princeton is once again the dominant team in the Ivy League and currently the only unbeaten team in Ivy League play. At 12-5 overall and 3-0 in Ivy League play, Princeton is poised to grab its fourth consecutive Ivy League championship. The Tigers have won five straight games heading into this weekend. All five of its losses have come before Christmas, and all five losses came in road games. At home, the Tigers are 7-0, but on the road, they are 5-5. In its three Ivy League games, Princeton has cruised to victory, with an average winning margin of 35.7 points. The Tigers lead the Ivy League in scoring (71.4 ppg.) and are holding opponents to a League-best 55.5 points per game. The Tigers are also making a name for themselves on the national stage. Princeton is ranked in the top-100 in 12 different national statistical categories, including Top-50 rankings in scoring offense (34th), scoring margin (19th), field goal percentage (37th), field goal percentage defense (18th), rebound margin (3rd), assists per game (27th) and assist turnover ratio (20th). Senior Niveen Rasheed is leading the team in scoring, rebounding, total assists and total steals, with 16.6 points per game, 9.1 rebounds per game, 56 assists and 39 steals.


Series History

In a series that dates back to Yale's first season as a varsity program in 1973-74, the two teams have met 77 times, with Princeton playing Yale more times than any other opponent. The Tigers lead the series 47-30, and they have won the last eight meetings, with their last loss to the Bulldogs coming in a 56-54 decision in Princeton on Feb. 13, 2009. Princeton's last loss in New Haven came on Feb. 15, 2008, a 78-57 Yale victory. The Bulldogs are 3-11 against the Tigers during Chris Gobrecht's tenure as head coach at Yale.


2011-12 Series

Princeton dominated Yale in both games in 2011-12, with a 72-47 win in Princeton on Feb. 4 and a 71-53 win in New Haven in the final weekend of the season. Devona Allgood scored 14 points and Lauren Edwards and Niveen Rasheed each recorded double-doubles to lead Princeton to the home victory over Yale. Michelle Cashen scored nine points to lead Yale, while Megan Vasquez scored eight points. Yale trailed from the start after Princeton scored the first eight points of the game, but Graf drained two big 3-pointers to fuel a 10-2 run that tied the game at 10-10 at the first media timeout. Princeton responded with a 15-3 run to pull ahead 25-13 and Yale never got any closer than six points the rest of the way. Rasheed scored 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to help Princeton to the season sweep in the rematch in New Haven on March 2. Vasquez scored 15 points, while Cashen added 14 points and six rebounds. The win gave Princeton its eighth straight win over Yale.


27 And Counting

Princeton enters this weekend trip to Brown and Yale with a 27-game winning streak against Ivy League opponents. It is the second-longest active conference winning streak in the nation, trailing only No. 1 Baylor's 32-game winning streak against Big 12 opponents. Princeton's 27-game winning streak is the longest run in Ivy League history. Princeton is 49-1 in Ivy League play since Feb. 27, 2008.


Following Rasheed

Senior Niveen Rasheed was recently added to the State Farm Wade Watch List, the third watch list for a national player of the year award. She is on the watch list for the Naismith Player of the Year award and was selected to the Wooden Award Women's Preseason Top 30. Rasheed is currently second among Ivy League leaders in scoring (16.6 ppg.), rebounding (9.1 rpg.) and steals (2.3 spg.).







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 444 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.


Rally Falls Short vs. Harvard 

After a slow start, the Yale University women's basketball team put together a second-half rally that fell just short of a complete comeback against its rivals from Harvard. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs did not have an answer for Harvard sophomore forward Temi Fagbenle, who scored a career-high 20 points with nine rebounds in 22 minutes to lead Harvard to a 67-54 win over Yale last Friday. Senior guard Megan Vasquez tallied 13 points, four rebounds, and four assists to lead the Bulldogs. Junior guard Janna Graf fell just short of a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds, while sophomore guard Sarah Halejian recorded 10 points and two blocks. Yale trailed 32-20 at halftime, but managed to pull within three points, 47-44, with 9:43 left, but Harvard used an 18-6 run that put the Crimson ahead 65-50 with 1:22 left and secured the victory. Yale's first-half struggles proved to be too much to recover from. The Bulldogs shot just 7-for-36 (19.4 percent) overall and 3-for-14 (21.4 percent) from 3-point range in the half. Harvard dominated the paint, outscoring Yale 40-12, and outrebounding the Bulldogs 50-44.


Yale Loses Hold on Dartmouth

Faziah Steen scored 19 points, 10 coming in the second half, to lead Dartmouth as Yale dropped a 63-48 home loss on Feb. 2. It was Yale's first loss to Dartmouth's since March 6, 2009, when the Big Green defeated the Bulldogs 61-51 in Hanover, N.H. Sarah Halejian scored all 15 of her points in the second half to lead the Bulldogs. Allie Messimer matched her career-high with 14 points, 11 of which came in the second half. Yale was held to just 15 first-half points, shooting just 6-for-26 (23.1 percent) in the half and 2-for-13 (15.4 percent) from 3-point range. The 15 first-half points is the lowest output in a half this season. Yale turned this around in a hurry to start the second half, opening the half with a 14-2 run that trimmed the deficit to 32-29 with 14:51 remaining. All 14 of Yale's points came from Halejian (8) and Messimer (6). That, however, was as close as Yale could get. Dartmouth came alive with a 12-2 run to stretch its lead to 44-31 with 11:29 left. The Bulldogs could get no closer than nine points the rest of the way.


Halejian, Yale Dominate Brown Rematch

Sophomore guard Sarah Halejian recorded her first career double-double, with 21 points and 10 rebounds, both career-highs, to lead Yale to a 59-47 win over Brown at the Pizzitola Sports Center on Jan. 25. Halejian scored 15 of her points in the second half, and she finished with a 9-for-16 shooting effort and three steals to help the Bulldogs bounce back from the 68-67 home loss to Brown on Jan. 19. With the win, Yale improves to 6-10 overall, 1-1 in Ivy League play. Yale also improves to 5-1 in its last six games at Brown with the lone loss in that stretch coming on Jan. 15, 2010. In the second half, Yale scored six of the first eight points to push the lead to 32-22 at the 17:54 mark, but Brown responded with a 7-0 run over the next 1:36 to close the margin to just three points, 32-29, with 16:18 left. Leading 47-43 with 6:04 left, Yale put the game out of reach with a 10-0 run that pushed the lead to 57-43 with 4:14 left, with five of those points coming from Halejian. Brown could muster only four points the rest of the way. Yale held Brown to just 11 points over the final 12:52 of the game. The Bulldogs limited Lauren Clarke, Brown's leading scorer, to nine points overall, but more importantly, just two points in the second half.


Halejian Earns First Player of the Week Award

Thanks to her 21-point, 10-rebound performance in Yale's 59-47 win at Brown on Jan. 25, sophomore guard Sarah Halejian was named the Co-Player of the Week by the Ivy League. It is the first career Player of the Week honor for Halejian and seventh Ivy League weekly honor overall. She earned Rookie of the Week recognition six times last season, which tied a Yale record for Rookie of the Week awards by one player in a single season. Halejian's 21 points and 10 rebounds were both career-high marks for the reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year. It was the first 20-point performance of Halejian's young career and her first career double-double. In the victory, Halejian shot a stellar 9-for-16 (56.2 percent) from the floor. Halejian's nine made field goals and eight defensive rebounds were also career-high marks. She also matched a season-high with three steals. Halejian also drew the defensive assignment on Brown's leading scorer, Lauren Clarke, who was held to nine points overall, but more importantly, just two points in the second half. Halejian's previous career-highs were 18 points, also set at Brown last season (Jan. 13, 2012), and six rebounds (set at Columbia, Feb. 24, 2012).


Bulldog Trends

  • Yale's leading scorer, Sarah Halejian, has scored in double figures in 17 of Yale's 18 games. In her only single-digit game, she scored nine points against Sacred Heart.
  • Halejian has averaged 15.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.0 steals over the last three Ivy League games.
  • Halejian has made five or more field goals in the last five of the last six games and seven of the last 10 games.
  • Halejian has started the last 35 straight games, including all 18 games this season and the last 17 games of the 2011-12 season.
  • Senior captain Allie Messimer has averaged 9.0 points over the last seven games, raising her season from 4.0 ppg. to 5.9 ppg. ... She has averaged two 3-pointer in the last seven games.
  • Messimer is Yale's No. 2 scorer in Ivy League play, averaging 9.5 ppg. with at least four rebounds in each of the last three games. She is shooting 61.5 percent from 3-point range against Ivy League competition.


Yale Athletics Pink Zones Postponed to March 2

Yale's two-day event that is now called "Yale Athletics Pink Zones," which was originally scheduled for Feb. 9, was postponed to March 2 due to the forecast of a blizzard. All events from the weekend, including the "Battle of the Badges" competition, will now be held during the final home weekend of the season. The annual fundraiser, in conjunction with the Women's Basketball Coaches Association's "Play 4Kay" initiative, is dedicated to raising awareness and donations for breast cancer research, with Yale's proceeds once again being donated to the Smilow Cancer Hospital. Last year, Yale hosted the most successful Pink Zone weekend since Yale started participating five years ago. The festivities, which will take place throughout Payne Whitney Gymnasium, will once again include a "Battle of the Badges" competition featuring the Yale and New Haven police and fire departments. Check for the full schedule.


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 Feb. 4, and Yale is ranked No. 16 among the nation's 343 Division I schools in 3-pointers made per game with 7.7 3-pointers per game. Yale is No. 54 in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (33.7 percent). On the defensive end, Yale's 3-point shooting defense was ranked No. 6 in the country. The Bulldogs are holding teams to just 24.8 percent. Yale ranked higher in the national rankings at the end of non-league play in 3-point shooting percentage (35.9 percent) and 8.4 made 3-pointers per game. Since Ivy League play began, Yale is shooting just 25.3 percent from behind the arc and is averaging just 5.5 3-pointers per game.


Halejian, Gobrecht on "Inside Ivy League Basketball"

Sophomore guard Sarah Halejian was the latest Yale representative on the Ivy League's on-demand radio show. In her interview on Jan. 30, Halejian discussed her stellar performance at Brown and the Bulldogs' outlook for the remainder of the Ivy League season. Yale head coach Chris Gobrecht appeared on the show earlier in the season. In her interview, Gobrecht discussed Yale's improving play, 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 either interview, visit


Yale Takes Battle of the Bulldogs

Yale met Bryant for the first time since the 2009-10 season and returned from the Smithfield, R.I., campus with a 78-65 win to finish the non-league portion of the schedule with a 5-9 record. Amanda Tyson led Yale with a career-high 16 points in the win. Sarah Halejian scored 15 points and tallied five assists and three steals. Megan Vasquez, making her first start of the season, recorded 12 points, seven rebounds, and five assists, while Janna Graf had 12 points and five rebounds. Naana Ankoma-Mensa led all scorers with 22 points and 13 rebound. Halejian scored 12 of her 15 points in the first half, helping Yale to a 31-19 halftime lead. Yale improved to 4-0 when leading at halftime and 4-0 when shooting a better percentage from the floor than the opposing team.


A Grand Win over the Bison

In the 1,000th game in Yale's 40-year history, Yale cruised to an 82-62 win over Bucknell on Jan. 5. It was Yale's fourth straight win over Bucknell. 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 scored 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting. Sarah Halejian scored 15 points, while Janna Graf and Zenab Keita each added 14 points. Yale shot 31-for-61 (50.8 percent), which was its best shooting performance of the season.


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 at Brown on Jan. 25, Gobrecht now has 84 wins at Yale and is now 23 wins behind Cecelia DeMarco (107-127), Yale's all-time winningest head coach.


Scoring Points

  • Yale has scored at least 75 points five times this season and is 3-2 in those games, with wins over Houston (84-82), Bucknell (82-62) and Bryant (78-65) and losses at DePaul (95-80) and at Northwestern (83-75). 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 scored 75 points only three times, all in victories (vs. Florida State, vs. Harvard, at Harvard).
  • In the NCAA's Feb. 4 statistics update, Yale is ranked No. 16 among the nation's 343 Division I schools with 7.7 3-pointers made per game and No. 54 in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (33.7 percent).
  • Yale's 3-point shooting defense is ranked No. 6 in the country. The Bulldogs are holding teams to just 24.8 percent.
  • Junior guard Janna Graf is No. 22 in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (41.1 percent).
  • Graf is second in the Ivy League in 3-pointers made per game with 2.1 per game, fourth in 3-point shooting percentage.
  • Yale leads the Ivy League in 3-pointers made per game (7.7) and defensive 3-point shooting percentage (24.8 percent).
  • Yale is second in the Ivy League in 3-point shooting percentage (33.7 percent).
  • Yale is third in the Ivy League in scoring (65.0 ppg.), free-throw percentage (71.4 percent) and offensive rebounds (13.7 orpg.).
  • The Bulldogs are 3-6 at home this season and 3-6 on the road.


Next Up

Following this weekend, Yale will hit the road for four straight games, beginning with a swing through New York for games at Cornell on Feb. 15 and at Columbia on Feb. 16. Yale will close its season with six of its final eight games on the road. Yale and Cornell will meet for the 68th time in the history of a series that dates back to the 1974-75 season. Yale holds a 45-22 lead over Cornell, and will be looking to extend its winning streak over the Big Red to seven straight wins. When Yale visits Columbia, it will be the 57th meeting between the two teams. Yale holds a 39-17 edge in the series, but has lost three of the last four meetings and has not won at Columbia since a 66-59 win on Feb. 1, 2008.


Follow the Bulldogs

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

Report filed by Jon Erickson, Jr., Yale Sports Publicity