Dominating Second Half Powers Yale Past St. Francis

Sarah Halejian. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Sarah Halejian. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Halejian Scores Career-High 14 Points to Lead Bulldogs to Convincing Win


NEW HAVEN, Conn. — With two consecutive losses behind it and key matchups against Quinnipiac and Florida State lying in wait, the Yale University women's basketball team not only needed a victory, but it also wanted a strong performance in that win to show progress heading into the two tough games ahead.

The Bulldogs got what their holiday wish.

Junior guard Megan Vasquez scored 19 points, while freshman guard Sarah Halejian poured in a personal-best 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting, to lead Yale to a 72-41 win over St. Francis (N.Y.) Sunday afternoon inside John J. Lee Amphitheater.

In what was the Bulldogs' final home game of 2011, they put on a defensive clinic in front of the home crowd. With the game tied 15-15 with 7:49 remaining in the first half, the Bulldogs outscored the Terriers 57-26 over the final 27:49 of the game.

"I think the best thing we did was we finished the game," said Chris Gobrecht, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954, Head Coach of Women's Basketball. "We talked a lot about that at halftime. We were only ahead 28-21 at halftime. St. Francis was not going to go away. They were a team that was willing to battle, and we were going to have to play well in the second half to beat them. We actually got it going with our defense. We were able to frustrate them and make it hard for them to want to go back down and dig in defensively. Once they loosened up a bit, we were able to get some shots to fall, and everything gets easier once you get your shots to fall."

The Yale defense forced 28 St. Francis turnovers, 19 coming from steals. The Bulldogs (5-4) limited the Terriers (1-10) to just eight field goals in the second half, and they used 17 Terrier turnovers to fuel an offensive outburst that resulted in 44 second-half points. It was Yale's most points in a half since it scored 46 in the second half of the Nov. 14 win at Fairleigh Dickinson.

Vasquez fell just one point shy of her fifth 20-point performance of the season. She also had five assists and five steals, matching a career-high mark in steals that she set in a win at Brown on Jan. 21, 2011.

Halejian surpassed her previous season-high of 13, set on Nov. 22 at Baylor. She also had three rebounds and two steals in her fourth start of the season.

Fellow freshman Hayden Latham scored all eight of her points in the second half. Junior guard Allie Messimer, who earned her first start since Dec. 6, 2010, scored seven of her nine points in the second half. Junior guard Aarica West added eight points, while freshman center Arrice Bryant chipped in with seven points, six rebounds and two steals. Bryant, who entered the game just 1-for-9 from the free-throw line this season, was a perfect 3-for-3 from the line.

"We got a little inside game going, especially from Arrice today. That was nice to see her get a little more comfortable in that role," Gobrecht said.

Sarah Benedetti scored 14 points off the bench to lead St. Francis. Jaymee Veney added 12 points.

Yale is scheduled to visit Quinnipiac on Tuesday. After a seven-day holiday break, the Bulldogs are slated to visit Florida State on Dec. 28. The Bulldogs return home on New Year's Day to face Army at 4 p.m.

Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity