The Yale University women's basketball team closes out its three-game Texas swing on Friday and Saturday when it visits the University of Houston to play two games in the David Jones Classic. On Friday, the Bulldogs will take on the Houston Cougars, who head into the tournament still searching for their first win of the season. On Saturday, the Bulldogs cap off the tournament with a game against Texas-Pan American. McNeese State is the other team in the tournament, but it will not face Yale. The Bulldogs are hoping to get back on the winning track after losing two straight, including Tuesday's loss at No. 1 Baylor.
After a dream season in 2010-11, the Houston Cougars have had a nightmarish start to the 2011-12 season. The Cougars, who went 26-6 last year, including a perfect 16-0 in Conference USA play, are currently 0-4 to the season despite gaining national recognition during the preseason. The Cougars were in the "Others Receiving Votes" portion of the ESPN/USA Today Top 25 Coaches Preseason Poll. However, the injuries have piled up, with the latest additions to the injury list being starters Porsche Landry, the team's top scorer, and Tasha Tubbs. Without it's key players, Houston has had a difficult start to its season. After losses to New Mexico State, Texas Tech, Georgetown, and Oral Roberts, the Cougars are reeling, and there are still eight games to go before they begin play in a difficult Conference USA. Houston has averaged 54.0 points per game, with its lowest output coming at Georgetown, during which the Hoyas held the Cougars to just nine points in the first half. Landry suffered a head injury in that game and had to be taken off the court on a stretcher. She's improving and may play this weekend, but Tubbs is out for the season after tearing the ACL in her knee.
In Memory of David Jones
The David Jones Classic was created this season to honor the memory of the late David Jones, a former assistant coach for the University of Houston. His daughter, former WNBA player Chandi Jones, is the only women's basketball player at Houston to have her number (13) retired by the school. David Jones, an assistant at Houston from 1999-2006, was a part of the coaching staff during the greatest five-year run in program history that included a 109-47 overall record and four postseason appearances. During that time, Jones was able to coach his daughter, Chandi, who became the school's all-time leading scorer (2,692 points). She is currently the video coordinator for the Cougars.
Tale of Two Halves
Through the first four games of the season, the Cougars have struggled through slow starts, scoring a total of only 77 points in the first halves of their four games, an average of 19.3 points. However, in the second half, the Cougars have nearly doubled that output, scoring 139 points, an average of 34.8 points. Houston has also performed better on the glass in the second half by an 87-81 margin.
Houston and Yale have met only once prior to the opening game of the David Jones Classic on Friday. The Cougars and Bulldogs squared off in the opening game of the Coors Holiday Classic on Nov. 23, 2001, in Boulder, Colo. Houston snuck past Yale, 61-59, led by then-sophomore guard Chandi Jones, who scored a game-high 17 points in the win. The Bulldogs are 0-4 in their history against teams from Conference USA, while Houston has only played three total contests against Ivy League schools, holding a 1-2 record, with that lone victory coming against Yale.
Elm City Connection
Houston senior guard Michelle White arrived last season at Houston via Trinity Valley Community College (Athens, Texas), where she played basketball as a sophomore, and Barton Community College (Great Bend, Kan.), where she began her college career. But her story truly begins in New Haven. White made a name for herself on the courts just a few miles away from the Yale campus at Hillhouse High School. A New Haven Register All-Area selection in each of her four years at Hillhouse, White was also an All-State player in her senior season and was nominated for McDonald's All-America accolades. She also lettered in volleyball and cross country for the Academics. She battled injuries throughout her first season with the Cougars in 2010-11, playing in just seven games.
Scouting Texas-Pan American
Texas-Pan American is 1-3 through the first four games of the 2011-12 season. The Broncs lost their opener to ACC foe Miami, 83-37. The Broncs followed that with a victory over Paul Quinn College (Texas), 72-43, but they have since lost two straight to Texas State (66-61) and Texas-El Paso (62-51). UTPA has averaged 55.3 points per game, while allowing 63.5 points per game. The Broncs have not won a game away from home this season. They have just one player with a scoring average in double figures this season. LaQuita Garner is leading the Broncs in scoring, with 15.0 points per game, while she is second in rebounding, averaging 4.5 rebounds per game.
Getting to Know UTPA
The University of Texas-Pan American competes in NCAA Division I, in the Great West Conference. It is one of five schools in the University of Texas System that compete in Division I. The others are the UT campuses in Austin, El Paso, San Antonio, and Arlington. UTPA, formerly known as Pan American College and Pan American University, competes in 14 varsity sports, including men's and women's basketball, golf, tennis, track and field, and cross country, along with women's volleyball and men's baseball. In 1963, then known as Pan American College, the Broncs won the 1963 NAIA national championship led by former NBA All-Star Lucious Jackson. The Broncs' baseball team placed 4th in the 1971 College World Series. UTPA was previously a member of the Sun Belt Conference from 1991-1998.
UTPA's Last Time Out
The Broncs dropped a 62-51 loss at Texas-El Paso on Tuesday. After being down by as many as 18, the Broncs went on an 11-2 run towards the end of the game to pull within 10 in the final minute. LaQuita Garner has led the Broncs in scoring during every game this season, finishing with 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting. Adanna Opara became the fourth UTPA player to score in double-figures this season, recording 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting.
The Broncs' athletic program has produced three former MLB players (Jim & Wayne Tyrone-both with Chicago Cubs, and George Williams-Oakland A's), four former NBA players (Lucious Jackson-Philadelphia 76ers, Apple Green-New York Knicks, Otto Moore-6 NBA teams, and Fred Taylor-Phoenix Suns), as well as current MLB coaches Jim Hickey (pitching coach, Tampa Bay Rays) and Perry Hill (first base coach, Miami Marlins).
There is a short history between Yale and Texas-Pan American. The Bulldogs and Broncs have met just one time prior to the game that they will play on Saturday. Yale took part in the 2006 Air Force Classic, where it lost to Air Force, 67-55 in the opener, but followed that with a victory over UTPA, 62-49, on Dec. 2, 2006.
Bulldogs' Tall Order
Yale opened the week with a game at Baylor, the top-ranked team in the nation, in what proved to be a tall order in more ways than one. It was Yale's first-ever game against an opponent that was ranked No. 1 in the country at the time of the game. Junior center Brittney Griner, the consensus preseason national player of the year, dominated the game, scoring 31 points, while pulling down 10 rebounds and blocking five shots, to lead Baylor to a 109-59 win over Yale on Nov. 22. However, the score does not indicate how tough of a challenge the Bulldogs made the game for the Bears. For a majority of the first half, it appeared as if the Bulldogs were going to keep pace with the Bears. Yale led by as many as four points, and by the third media timeout, Yale was on top 26-25 with 7:51 left in the half. That's when Griner took charge. She scored 13 points in a 32-7 run over the final over the final 7:17 of the half to propel the Bears into a 57-33 halftime lead. At the halftime break, Griner had 21 points on 9-of-10 shooting and five rebounds. She was 13-for-16 from the field by the time the game was over.
Zenab's Big Night
Despite having to defend the nation's best player, Yale sophomore center Zenab Keita recorded the best performance of her young Yale career. Keita scored Yale's first seven points of the game at Baylor on Nov. 22, passing her previous career high of six points just 3:57 into the game. She made big plays on both ends of the court, helping Yale to a 15-11 lead at the first media timeout 5:17 into the game. Keita finished the game with 13 points to go along with two assists, two steals and two blocks, reaching new career-high marks with all of those statistical categories.
Halejian's Helping Hand
Freshman guard Sarah Halejian has come on strong in the last three games, averaging 9.0 points per game over that stretch. She scored nine points against Fairleigh Dickinson at the Hackensack, N.J. campus. Growing up just 12 miles away, the Wyckoff, N.J., native erased the memory of her scoreless season opener with a strong performance in front of many friends and family who came out to support her and her Yale teammates. Halejian scored five points in the loss at Marist, but she saved her best showing for the nation's best team. Halejian scored a team-high 13 points against the Baylor Bears. She hit five of her nine shots, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range.
Yale is spending it's Thanksgiving holiday week in the great state of Texas, playing three tough road games during its visit. The Bulldogs opened the week at top-ranked Baylor. They will close the week at the David Jones Classic, which will be played at the University of Houston. Yale will face Houston in its opening game of the Classic. In their only previous meeting, Houston defeated Yale, 61-59, on Nov. 23, 2001. The Bulldogs will close out their Texas stay with a game against the Texas-Pan American. The Bulldogs and Broncs have faced each other once before in a 62-49 Yale win on Dec. 2, 2006. The Texas trip, primarily the David Jones Classic games in Houston, gives Yale junior guard Allie Messimer a chance to return home. She grew up in The Highlands, Texas, a community about 20 miles north of Houston.
Milestone Watch for Vasquez
Following a six-point performance points against top-ranked Baylor, junior guard Megan Vasquez has now scored 749 career points. She needs just 251 points to reach 1,000 career points. She has two 20-point outings this season. She scored 23 points in the season-opening win over Holy Cross, 11 points against Fairleigh Dickinson, and a team-high 21 points at Marist. Vasquez scored 322 points in her freshman season and 366 points last season. If she approaches her average of 344 points from her first two seasons, she should reach the 1,000-point milestone at some point during the Ivy League season. In doing so, Vasquez will become the 17th player in Yale's history to reach 1,000 career points. The last Bulldog to reach the milestone was Melissa Colborne, who closed out her career with 1,418 points, fifth on Yale's all-time scoring list. If Vasquez continues to maintain her 344-point pace, she would finish in sixth place on Yale's all-time list with 1,376 career points.
Tuesday's game at Baylor marked the midway point of a six-game stretch away from the friendly confines of John J. Lee Amphitheater for Yale. The rules of the road will quickly become routine for the Bulldogs, with 10 of the next 15 games on the road. The Bulldogs can find comfort in the fact that six of the final eight games will be played inside John J. Lee Amphitheater, at about the same time that the Bulldogs hope to be making a run at the Ivy League championship.
Bulldogs Suffer First Defeat
After Yale opened its season with a pair of victories, the Bulldogs could not find a way to extend that win streak to three games for the team's first 3-0 start since the 1998-99 season, when Yale opened with a 4-0 mark. The Bulldogs traveled to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where, despite controlling a majority of the first half, they fell to Marist, 78-64, on Friday. Yale appeared to be in a strong position nearing the halftime break, but Marist closed the half with an 11-2 run that knocked the Bulldogs down and they could not find a way to recover in the second half. Megan Vasquez scored a team-high 21 points, including four 3-pointers, but it wasn't enough to prevent the Bulldogs (2-1) from dropping their first game of the season. Freshman center Arrice Bryant was the only other Bulldog in double figures. She scored eight of her 10 points in the first half to finish with the first double-figure scoring effort of her young Yale career. She also had a team-high nine rebounds.
Senior forward Michelle Cashen takes over for Yoyo Greenfield '11 as Yale's captain for the 2011-12 season. Cashen was All-Ivy Honorable Mention last season after averaging 8.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Cashen has averaged 7.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game through 82 career games, including 55 starts.
Welcome to Yale
Yale welcomes five new faces to the roster in 2011-12. Joining the coaching staff are Jarietta Benton and Kelly Rotan. Benton comes to Yale after one year as an assistant coach at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and a four-year stint with the Saint Louis University women's basketball program. Rotan is beginning her coaching career after a four-year standout career at Juniata. Three players also join the Bulldogs' roster as freshman for the 2011-12 season. Guards Sarah Halejian and Hayden Latham and center Arrice Bryant are all expected to play a big part in the Bulldogs' plans this season. Halejian, a 5-9 guard from Wyckoff, N.J., is a two-time North Jersey Player of the Year and closed her high school career atop Ramapo High's all-time scoring list (1,839 points). Latham, a 5-9 guard from Greenville, S.C., was a three-time South Carolina Coaches Association Women's Sports Player of the Year and was the first player at Christ Church Episcopal School to record more than 2,000 points. Bryant, a 6-2 center from Detroit, brings size and power to the roster. She was ranked as the No. 39 center in the Class of 2015 by ESPN. She led Renaissance High to three DPSL City championships, three MHSAA District titles and two appearances in the state finals.
Strength of Schedule
The non-league schedule in 2011-12 is Yale's toughest non-league slate during Gobrecht's tenure as head coach. It features four teams that received votes in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches' Preseason Poll, including Baylor. Yale will meet the Bears on Nov. 22 in Waco, Texas, for what will likely be the Bulldogs' first-ever game against the nation's No. 1 team. The Bulldogs are also slated to meet No. 13 Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla. Yale will also meet Marist and Houston during the non-league portion of the schedule, both of which didn't make the Top 25 but received votes in the poll. The schedule also includes matchups against Boston University, Fairleigh Dickinson and Delaware, all of which defeated the Bulldogs during last season's seven-game losing streak. The Bulldogs will visit Texas during Thanksgiving week, beginning with the highly anticipated game at No. 1 Baylor and ending with the David Jones Classic at the University of Houston. The holiday tournament will also see the Bulldogs take on Texas-Pan American. Yale will see rematches with Quinnipiac, Army, Holy Cross, and Bucknell, as well as games against St. Francis (N.Y.) and Baruch, the only opponent on the schedule that Yale has never faced in its history.
The 2010-11 season ended with a magical run that produced not only the first WNIT appearance in program history, but also an abundance of awards for the Bulldogs. Guard Megan Vasquez, and forwards Mady Gobrecht, Michelle Cashen and Janna Graf all earned places on the 2010-11 All-Ivy Team. Vasquez was named to the All-Ivy First Team. She finished the season as the Bulldogs' leading scorer at 13.6 points per game. It is the 17th time that a Yale player earned a spot on the All-Ivy First Team. Vasquez was the third player to earn First-Team honors during Chris Gobrecht's tenure as head coach and the first since Erica Davis (2006-07). Mady Gobrecht earned a spot on the All-Ivy Second Team, the first All-Ivy honor of her college career. She was second on the team in scoring (11.9 ppg.) and rebounding (6.3 rpg.). Graf was named to the All-Ivy Rookie Team. She was third on the team in scoring (9.5 ppg.). She was named the Ivy League's Rookie of the Week four times this season and was a Player of the Week once. Cashen earned All-Ivy Honorable Mention after finishing fourth on the Bulldogs in scoring (8.2 ppg.). She also led the Bulldogs in rebounding (6.6 rpg.).
Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr.