Vasquez, Graf combine for 47 points to propel Bulldogs to upset win
NEW HAVEN, CONN. — So often in sports, a team's record and its performance on paper has little bearing on its performance on the field of play. On Saturday night, the Yale University women's basketball team proved just that.
Florida State, for that matter, also played its part in proving the truth to that statement.
The Seminoles came to Yale with a 9-1 overall record and a Top 15 ranking in both national polls, but by the end of the night, it was the Bulldogs who were celebrating the victory.
The victory was just the second win of the season for the Bulldogs (2-7) and the first since the season-opening 74-71 win at Holy Cross, snapping a seven-game losing skid. But when the final horn sounded, it also signified perhaps the biggest win in Yale's 38-year history. It was Yale's second win in its history over an opponent from the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Bulldogs defeated North Carolina State, 65-61, on Nov. 22, 2008.
"We've had some good wins before. We've beaten an ACC team before. We have beaten some teams that play in some tough leagues. But I think this is probably the first time that Yale has beaten a ranked team," said Chris Gobrecht, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954, Head Coach of Women's Basketball. "We are trying very hard to be a team that is a contender in the Ivy League and is very much a contender for the Ivy championship. We feel that this is a team is a good enough team to do that. Hopefully this will jumpstart us a little bit."
"It is definitely a special moment for us," Graf added. "We've had a rough stretch with seven losses in a row and I think this was a game where we proved to ourselves that we are good. We knew that, but this really set it in stone that we can compete with any team out there."
Right from the opening tip, the Bulldogs showed they were ready for the challenge of playing the Seminoles (9-2), who came into the game ranked 15th in the Associated Press Top 25 and 14th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.
Florida State's Alexa Deluzio converted a three-point play on the opening possession, but Yale scored the next 11 points to set the Seminoles back on their heels after 2:41 of action. The Bulldogs made their first five shots of the game and eight of their first 10 to jump out to a 17-9 lead just 4:59 into the game.
The early lead gave the Bulldogs the confidence they needed to set the pace of the game and the Seminoles had a difficult time adjusting throughout the first half.
Trailing 17-9, Florida State got a pair of baskets from Chasity Clayton and Natasha Howard to trim the deficit to four points, but Yale regained control quickly and used a 14-5 run to open up a 31-18 lead with 9:47 left in the half.
The 13-point deficit is the largest that Florida State has faced this season, but they managed to turn things around with a 15-8 run that trimmed the deficit to just six points (39-33) with 5:05 left thanks to the efforts of Courtney Ward and Christian Hunnicutt, who each scored six points in the run.
Yale closed the first half with a 11-4 run to regain that 13-point lead, going into the locker room with a halftime lead of 55-42.
However, Florida State did not fold and refused to go away quietly. The Seminoles came out of the halftime break and immediately drained a pair of 3-pointers by Ward and Deluzio to serve notice that Yale was not going to coast to an easy win.
Despite the quick baskets, the Bulldogs managed to build a double-digit lead over the course of the next four minutes, but Michelle Cashen's jumper with 15:13 left gave Yale its last point for the next 5:04. Yale led 64-54 with that shot, but Florida State scored the next 11 points to go ahead 65-64 with 10:45 left and reclaim the lead for the first time since that opening basket by Deluzio.
"In practice, we have really been working on our decision-making and being able to come out in the second half really strong," Vasquez said. "I think that is what became very prominent today. We had to come out strong and we couldn't let down. Even though they came back, we knew that we were still in the game and if we worked hard and outworked them every possession the rest of the way that we were going to get the win."
The teams traded baskets for the next 6:36 but neither team could gain a lead of more than four points during that stretch. When Allie Messimer drained a 3-pointer with 4:09 to play to trim Florida State's lead to 82-81, it kickstarted a 13-3 game-ending run for Yale that secured the momentous victory.
"All I could think of was that I was so happy for these players. It really has been a tough stretch. I was really happy for them. To see them smiling out there was really cool."
Cashen finished with 11 points and a season-high 13 rebounds for her first double-double of the season and the seventh of her career at Yale. Mady Gobrecht was the fourth Yale player to score in double figures. She finished with 12 points.
Along with her 25 points, Vasquez added six assists. Her previous career scoring mark was 19 points set on three occasions last season. Graf has had only one double-digit effort in her rookie season, and that was 10 points recorded last week against Fairleigh Dickinson. Aarica West, starting in place of senior captain Yoyo Greenfield, scored only four points but was still played a starring role in the party. She finished with a career-high 10 assists to go along with five rebounds and four steals.
Ward scored 19 points and Deluzio added 17 points to lead Florida State, which will move on to face UConn in what could be a historic game for the Huskies. If UConn can get past Ohio State on Sunday, it will have a chance to break the record for most consecutive wins in Division I history. The UCLA men's teams from 1971-74 currently hold the record of 88 wins. UConn is currently on an 87-game winning streak.
"We've been very close all season and I think Florida State probably had their minds on something else," Coach Gobrecht said. "I'm sure it was not their best performance by any means, but we stepped up and took advantage of the opportunity. We know these guys are good players, so it was nice to see them get the chance to show it against a good team like that."
Yale returns to action on Monday when it plays host to in-state rival Quinnipiac at 7 p.m.
Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity