Big Second Half Propels Bulldogs Past Holy Cross, 66-60

Michelle Cashen. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Michelle Cashen. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – It took the Yale women’s basketball team nearly seven minutes to register its first points of the 2009-10 season, but a team-high 15 points from freshman Megan Vasquez in her collegiate debut and double-doubles from both sophomore Michelle Cashen and junior Mady Gobrecht led a furious second-half comeback as the Bulldogs downed Holy Cross on Friday night at the John J. Lee Amphitheater in New Haven by a score of 66-60. Yale outrebounded the Crusaders, 54-41, and held the visitors to just 21 second-half points.

“It’s great to win a game with defense and rebounding,” said Chris Gobrecht, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women’s Basketball at Yale. “It’s also exciting to play well and win early on, especially knowing that we are only going to get better as we gain more experience.”

Yale opens its campaign at 1-0 for the second consecutive year. The Crusaders will start 2009-10 with an 0-1 mark.

Cashen’s double-double was comprised of 13 points and a game- and career-best 15 rebounds, including nine off of the offensive glass. Cashen was the last Bulldog to notch a double-double- a 22-point, 11-rebound showing at Columbia on Feb. 21, 2009, and her 15 boards are the most by a Yale player since Erica Davis ’07 hauled in 18 rebounds at Princeton on Feb. 2, 2007. Mady Gobrecht had 12 points, including 10 in the second half, and 10 rebounds to round out her double-double.

Vasquez’s 15 points were punctuated by four free throws in the closing seconds of the game with Yale clinging to a slim lead. Senior Melissa Colborne had six points for the Bulldogs, and freshmen Aarica West and Allie Messimer scored five in their first taste of collegiate action. Senior captain Ashley Carter had four points, all of which came in a single trip down the court in the final 1:12 with Yale holding a one-possession lead. Junior Yoyo Greenfield added three points, and freshman Ericka von Kaeppler added two points. Freshman Alicia Seelaus knocked down a free throw to round out the Yale scoring.

The Crusaders came out firing at the beginning of the game, jumping out to a 16-0 lead before a Messimer jump shot at the 13:19 mark put the Bulldogs on the board. Holy Cross continued to roll in the opening 20 minutes, as Yale never got closer than 12 points- while trailing by as many as 18 points- en route to entering the intermission facing a 14-point deficit, down 39-25.

“They came out playing like a team full of juniors and seniors, and we came out playing like a team full of freshmen and players coming off of injuries,” said Gobrecht of her team’s slow start.

Colborne and Cashen each netted six points before the break to pace the Bulldogs’ offense. Yale shot 24.2% from the floor (8-33) and missed all 10 of its attempts from beyond the arc. The Crusaders, paced by 12 points from Briana McFadden, shot 42.9% from the field (15-35) and 62.5% from three-point range (5-8).

It looked as if the Crusaders would keep Yale at a safe distance in the opening stages of the second half, as they led by 17 points at 47-30 with 17:23 left in the contest. But a three-pointer by Messimer sparked a 13-0 Yale run over the next 3:40 to cut the lead all the way down to four points at 47-43 as the game clock read 14:19. Holy Cross netted the next field goal to regain a six-point cushion, but a layup by West and three Gobrecht free throws over the ensuing stretch of action reduced the Crusaders’ lead to a single point at 49-48 with 9:19 left in the contest. After nearly three minutes without a bucket for either side, Holy Cross tallied the next four points to regain a five-point lead, and soon led by six at 56-50 with just over five minutes remaining. Four quick points by Cashen brought the lead back down to two points, and a Gobrecht layup, set up by Carter’s fifth steal of the night, knotted the score for the first time since the opening tip-off at 56-56. Gobrecht sank another bucket on the next trip down the court to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the contest at 58-56. Holy Cross took a timeout with 1:31 left to draw up an offensive play, but the Yale defense came up with the stop as Carter ripped down the rebound and was fouled. The senior captain sank her first free throw attempt- her first point of the contest- and followed her own miss for a layup and the foul. She would drain that foul shot as well to give the Bulldogs a two-possession lead, 62-56, with 1:11 on the clock.

“Carter made the play of the game,” said Coach Gobrecht of her senior captain’s effort down the stretch.

The Crusaders would not fade away however, as Bethany O’Dell sank two free throws and, after an empty trip down the court for the Bulldogs, Whitney Fremeau connected on a layup to cut the lead back down to two points at 62-60 with 31 seconds remaining. The Bulldogs successfully inbounded the ball against a heavy full-court press, and Vasquez was fouled with 24 ticks left. The freshman calmly sank a pair of free throws to give Yale a bit more breathing room, up 64-60. O’Dell missed a layup on the next Holy Cross possession, and the Crusaders put Vasquez back on the foul line with 13 seconds left. Once again, the freshman delivered with two free throws to ice the game, with Yale taking the victory by a score of 66-60.

Vasquez and Gobrecht each scored 10 points in the second half for the Bulldogs, while seven of Cashen’s 13 tallies came after halftime. The Yale offense shot 48% from the field (12-25) in the second frame to improve its mark to 34.5% (20-58) for the game.

Fremeau led all players with 18 points for the Crusaders. McFadden netted 12 points for the game, but the 2008-09 All-Patriot League First Team honoree was held scoreless in the second half by the tenacious Yale defense. O’Dell also had a dozen points for Holy Cross. Tayana Carper flirted with a double-double for the visitors, netting nine points and hauling in a team-best eight rebounds. As a team, Holy Cross shot 25.7% (9-35) after halftime and 34.3% (24-70) for the game.

The Bulldogs are back in action on Tuesday, as the Black Knights from Army visit the John J. Lee Amphitheater for a 7 p.m. contest. Army, who defeated Wagner in its season opener tonight (74-70 in overtime), will play at Loyola (Md.) on Sunday before making the trek from West Point to the Elm City for the midweek tilt.

report filed by Drew M. Kingsley, Yale Sports Publicity