February 11, 2012

Vasquez Lifts Yale Past Columbia

Records New Career-High With 28 Points to Power Bulldogs' Rally

 

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Megan Vasquez already played one of the best games of her career to start the weekend, so it would have been somewhat understandable if she took a night off. Instead, she topped herself and stepped up when he Yale University women's basketball team needed her most.

After matching her previous career-high with 25 points to lead Yale past Cornell Friday night, en route to becoming the 17th player in Yale's history to record 1,000 career points, Vasquez set a new career-high mark with 28 points to help Yale rally past Columbia, 73-59, in Ivy League action at John J. Lee Amphitheater Saturday night.

"I told Megan, 'Whatever you've been eating, keep eating it. Whatever you've been drinking, keep drinking it.' She is just playing really well right now," said Chris Gobrecht, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954, Head Coach of Women's Basketball.

Combined with Harvard's loss to Princeton Saturday, the win moved Yale (14-8, 6-2) into second place in the Ivy League standings with six games remaining in the season.

Yale trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half only to close the game to just three points at halftime. Yale had a shot to tie the game heading into the locker room, but sophomore guard Janna Graf missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds. Instead, Yale had to settle for the late 12-3 run that cut the 12-point deficit to just 32-29 at halftime.

"I was watching the film earlier today from their game against Brown Friday night. They took Brown into overtime and I was very nervous. I thought they looked really good," Gobrecht said. "The way that they played in the first half didn't surprise me. I thought that was the team that I had seen on film. That is a much different team than the one that was playing a month ago. They have just really improved, and that is a credit to Coach Nixon and those players. They have stayed focused on getting better. That is a very good basketball team."

Columbia (2-19, 0-7 Ivy League) managed to pull ahead 39-34 with 14:13 left in the game, but the Bulldogs flipped a switch and took their offensive effort to an entirely different level of intensity, and by the time the Lions caught their breath, any hopes they had of pulling off the upset had disappeared.

Yale outscored Columbia 29-11 over the next 7:58 to take a 63-50 lead with 6:15 left. Junior guard Allie Messimer jumpstarted the run with an old-fashioned 3-point play. Messimer (8) and Vasquez (11) combined to score 19 of Yale's 29 points in that game-changing rally.

"I think what happened last night, Columbia going into overtime at Brown, really took a lot out of them. And we felt like if we just kept the tempo up and just kept pushing that we would be able to capitalize on them being a little spent from last night," Gobrecht said.

Columbia cut the deficit to nine points twice, but Yale closed the game with an 8-3 spurt to secure the victory.

The stats in the two halves tell the story of the game. In the first half, Columbia shot 14-for-32 (43.8 percent), while only turning the ball over seven times, which resulted in five Yale points off of those turnovers. In the second half, Yale's defense put the clamps on Columbia's offensive effort. The Bulldogs limited the Lions to just nine field goals (9-for-21, 42.9 percent). The Bulldogs also forced 11 second-half turnovers, scoring 12 points off of the miscues.

The Bulldogs' offense also came through in a much bigger way in the second half. In the first 20 minutes, Yale shot just 11-for-34 (32.4 percent), including 3-for-13 from 3-point range. But in the second half, the Bulldogs shot 17-for-32 (53.1 percent), including 6-for-12 from 3-point range.

By the time the final buzzer had sounded, Vasquez had a new career-high, surpassing her previous high of 25, which she set twice before. Messimer finished with 13 points. Senior captain Michelle Cashen tallied eight points and seven rebounds.

"The game ball goes to Allie tonight for giving us the fire we needed in that second half," Gobrecht said. "She came off the bench and did such a great job for us. I thought Allie played excellent. Hayden Latham (3 points, 1 steal) gave us a great lift with her defense. I also thought Zenab Keita (6 points, 6 rebounds) did a great job. Our bench did a really good job for us tonight."

Courtney Bradford and Tyler Simpson each recorded a double-double to lead Columbia. Both had 14 points while Bradford had 12 rebounds and Simpson had 10 boards.

Yale returns to the court next weekend when it will play host to Dartmouth on Friday and close the weekend with a key showdown with rival Harvard on Saturday.

Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity