In the only previous meeting, which came a little more than a year ago, Yale celebrated its first-ever victory over a nationally ranked opponent with a 91-85 win over then-No. 14 Florida State on Dec. 18, 2010, in New Haven. This time around, the Bulldogs will travel to capitol of the Sunshine State to face the Seminoles in a Christmas Break matchup on Wednesday. Both teams are coming off of heartbreaking losses, with the Bulldogs rallying but falling short at in-state rival Quinnipiac and the Seminoles dropping a non-conference decision at Vanderbilt. Junior guard Megan Vasquez continues to lead the Bulldogs with an average of 15.2 points per game. Yale visits a Florida State team that has battled through an up-and-down season so far, winning three of its last four games after dropping five of its previous six games. For Chris Gobrecht, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954, Head Coach of Women's Basketball, this visit to Florida State is her first since she coached the Seminoles during the 1996-97 season.
Scouting Florida State
Florida State enters Wednesday's game with a 6-6 overall record, all in non-conference play. The Seminoles have battled through an up-and-down season, with three wins prior to the loss at Vanderbilt on Dec. 22. Prior to those three wins, however, the Seminoles dropped five out of six games. The Seminoles feature four double-figure scorers and another, Chasity Clayton that just misses out with a 9.9 ppg. average. Senior forward Cierra Bravard leads the Seminoles with 16.2 ppg. and is second on the team in rebounding (7.4 rpg.). Alexa Deluzio is second in scoring (12.9 ppg.), while Natasha Howard is third in scoring (10.6 ppg.) and leads the team in rebounding (8.8 rpg.). However, with only nine players, and four who average less than 4.0 ppg., depth is an issue. The Seminoles will make up for that with their size in the middle and their shooting accuracy (43.4 percent). Although the Seminoles are 6-6 so far this season, they have played the fourth toughest schedule in the nation, according to RealTimeRPI.com.
Florida State recorded a school-record 15 blocks versus Alabama A&M on Dec. 19 in an 86-41 win. It is a record that stood for 33 years. Bravard and sophomore Natasha Howard led the way with four blocks each, while junior Alexa Deluzio had three blocks and freshman Kristi Mokube added two blocks. The mark is the most by an ACC team this season. FSU's previous record was 12 set on Nov. 17, 1978 against Mercer. The Seminoles started the game by blocking Alabama A&M's first three shot.
The Last Meeting With Yale
In what was perhaps the biggest win in its history, Yale earned a 91-85 upset win over then-No. 14 Florida State on Dec. 18, 2010, in New Haven. It was Yale's first-ever win over a nationally ranked opponent. 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, the Bulldogs were celebrating the win. The win snapped Yale's seven-game losing skid. Yale closed the first half with a 11-4 run to take 55-42 halftime lead. The Seminoles regained the lead in the second half, scoring 11 straight points to take a 65-64 lead with 10:45 left. However, Yale closed the game with a deciding 13-3 run to secure the stunning win. Megan Vasquez scored 25 points and Janna Graf tallied 22 points, both career-high marks at the time, to lead the Bulldogs. Courtney Ward scored 19 points to lead the Seminoles. All-time, FSU is 1-1 against Ivy League opponents. The Seminoles defeated Harvard, 96-82, on Nov. 30, 2003, at the Seminole Classic in Tallahassee.
Florida State senior forward Cierra Bravard is on the Wade Award, Wooden Award and Naismith Award Watch Lists. However, she recently saw a double-figure scoring streak come to an end in the loss at Vanderbilt. Bravard had a streak of 32 consecutive games scoring in double figures. She scored only four points against Vanderbilt, ending the streak that started on Dec. 21, 2010 at Connecticut. Prior to that, she was held to just six points in Yale's 91-85 win on Dec. 18, 2010.
Welcome Back to Tallahassee
Chris Gobrecht, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954, Head Coach of Women's Basketball at Yale, is making her first return to Tallahassee since she coached at Florida State in the 1996-97 season. Gobrecht took over for then-FSU head coach Marynell Meadors, who is now the head coach of the WNBA's Atlanta Dream. When Gobrecht arrived at FSU, the Seminoles had struggled through four straight sub-.500 seasons, including three seasons where the Seminoles combined for a total of 22 wins (6-21/93-94, 8-22/94-95, 8-20/95-96). FSU showed promise early on in Gobrecht's only season in Tallahassee, winning three straight games before Christmas to improve to 5-4 on the season. However, the challenges of playing in the always-tough Atlantic Coast Conference overwhelmed the Seminoles that season, and they finished the year with a 5-22 overall record, 0-16 in ACC play. Gobrecht left after that season to become the head coach at her alma mater, Southern California, where she coached for seven seasons before coming to Yale.
Thanks to her play against St. Francis, freshman guard Sarah Halejian earned recognition as the Ivy League's Co-Rookie of the Week on Dec. 19. She poured in a personal-best 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting against the Terriers. She surpassed her previous season-high of 13, set on Nov. 22 at Baylor. She also matched a season-high with three rebounds and added two steals in her fourth start of the season. Halejian shared this week's rookie award with Cornell freshman Marissa Rakestraw. Following a scoreless collegiate debut in Yale's season opener against Holy Cross, Halejian has averaged 8.0 points per game in Yale's last eight games.
Taking on the Nation's Best
Including the loss at No. 22 Delaware on Dec. 5, Yale has faced four teams that have either earned a spot in the national rankings or have received votes in either of the Top 25 polls at one point this season. Yale has faced two ranked teams, including No. 1 Baylor and No. 22 Delaware, while it has also faced Marist and Houston, which both received votes in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Preseason Poll. The Bulldogs are also slated to visit Florida State on Dec. 28. The Seminoles were ranked No. 13 earlier this season. And the list of those games do not include the two games that await Yale against Princeton once the Ivy League season begins. The Tigers received votes in both Top 25 polls earlier this season.
Oh So Close ...
Yale nearly pulled off one of the biggest comebacks in the program's history against Boston University, only to fall just short in the game's final minute on Dec. 7. Trailing 38-18 with 16:32 left in the game, Yale stormed back to cut the deficit to just two points in the closing seconds. Megan Vasquez scored 20 of her game-high 22 points in the second half to fuel the comeback. Hayden Latham scored seven of her season-high 12 points in the second half and was a stellar 8-for-9 from the free-throw line. Down by 20, Yale responded with an 11-2 run behind nine points from Vasquez to trim the deficit to 40-29 with 12:59 left. B.U. was on top 51-41 with 6:26 remaining, but the Bulldogs used a 13-3 run behind another nine points from Vasquez to pull to within two points (56-54) with 35 seconds left, but that was as close as they could get. Yale trailed 30-14 at halftime.
Milestone Watch for Vasquez
Junior guard Megan Vasquez has now scored 840 career points. She needs just 160 points to reach 1,000 career points. She now has four 20-point outings this season, including Holy Cross (23), Marist (21), Houston (22) and Boston University (22). 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.
Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr./Yale Sports Publicity