Sarju Spectacular in Season-Opening Loss at Holy Cross

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

Freshman Guard Tallies 18 Points in Yale Debut


WORCESTER, Mass. — The Yale University women's basketball team stepped on the floor for the first official game of its historic 40th season Friday night, but the Bulldogs had hoped for a better way to celebrate the milestone tipoff to the 2012-13 season.

Brisje Malone led all scorers with 23 points to propel Holy Cross to an 87-71 win over Yale at the Hart Center Friday night. Emily Parker had 18 points, while Alex Smith added 17 points, seven rebounds and eight assists.

It was also the season-opener for Holy Cross, which was playing without senior forward Amy Lepley, who led the Crusaders last season in scoring (13.4 ppg.), rebounding (6.4 rpg.), and shooting percentage (49.9 percent; 192-for-385).

But the Crusaders never missed a beat. Yale had trimmed a six-point halftime deficit to just two points at 45-43 with 16:24 left in the game, but Holy Cross used an 18-5 run to push that slim lead into an 63-48 lead with 11:38 left. The Bulldogs gained control for a short span, cutting that deficit down to 11 points (72-61) while temporarily slowing down the Crusaders' offensive attack, but that was as close as Yale would get.

What was a surmountable 11-point deficit turned to a 23-point blowout in a 4:29 span, giving Holy Cross an 86-63 lead with 1:42 left.

Despite the second-half collapse, Yale did have a number of bright spots in the season's opening game. Freshman guard Nyasha Sarju celebrated her college debut by leading all Yale scorers with 18 points. Sophomore Sarah Halejian, last year's Ivy League Rookie of the Year, added 15 points, four rebounds, and four assists. Junior center Zenab Keita added 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. Junior guard Janna Graf chipped in with 11 points and seven rebounds.

However, those bright spots couldn't match up to the Holy Cross offensive surge. The Crusaders shot a stellar 48 percent from the field (32-for-66) and managed to get to the free-throw line 29 times, making 21 of their free throws. Yale only had 13 free throws, which was just one key difference in the game.

Holy Cross scored 23 points off of 21 Yale turnovers, while the Bulldogs only scored eight points off of 14 Crusader miscues. While Holy Cross only managed to outrebound Yale 39-37, the Crusaders dominated the paint, outscoring the Bulldogs 48-20 in the paint and 22-14 on second-chance points. The Crusaders also had 14 fast-break points, while Yale, known for its up-tempo style of play, had no fast-break points.

The Bulldogs will get a few days to recuperate before tipping off the home portion of the schedule against the University of New Hampshire inside John J. Lee Amphitheater on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in what will be the Wildcats' first game of the season.

Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity