Yale Bulldogs (0-2, 0-0 Ivy League) vs. Houston Cougars (0-2, 0-0 Conference USA)
The Yale women's basketball team welcomes Conference USA opponent Houston to John J. Lee Amphitheater for the second home game and third game overall of its historic 40th season. The Bulldogs are looking for their first win of the season dropping the first two games of the season to Holy Cross and New Hampshire. Houston is also playing its third game of the season and is still looking for its first win following losses at Mississippi State and at home to Alabama. This is the second game of a home-and-home series between the teams after Yale beat the Cougars, 80-62, in the David Jones Classic at Houston last season.
The last time Yale met Houston, the Cougars were a very different team. During the offseason, the Cougars underwent a complete overhaul of their roster, bringing in 10 new players, including eight freshmen and two junior college transfers. The Cougars' top star, Porsche Landry, is back for a fifth year of competition after missing nearly all of last season after suffering a head and neck injury right before the Bulldogs traveled to Houston. This time around, Landry has returned to the top of the Cougars' scoring leaderboard (14.5 ppg.), not missing a beat in her first two games of action after returning from the injury. Houston's entire starting lineup is basically new since Landry missed 26 of 29 games last season. Joining Landry in the starting lineup are three junior transfers in Te'onna Campbell (5.5 ppg., 7.5 rpg.), Marissa Ashton (11.0 ppg., 9.0 rpg.) and Yasmeen Thompson (6.5 ppg., 11.5 rpg.) and freshman Marche Amerson (9.0 ppg., 5.0 rpg.). Fellow freshman Jessieka Palmer (14.5 ppg., 2.5 rpg.) has provided a big spark off the bench.
Prior to Saturday's meeting, which is the third game of the season for both teams, Houston and Yale have met only twice. In the opening game of last season's David Jones Classic, Houston's annual Thanksgiving tournament, the Bulldogs cruised to an 80-62 win over the Cougars on Nov. 25, 2011, behind Janna Graf's first career double-double (25 points, career-high 13 rebounds). The Cougars and Bulldogs also 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, currently Houston's administrative coordinator, who scored a game-high 17 points in the win. The Bulldogs are 1-4 in their history against teams from Conference USA, while Houston has only played four total contests against Ivy League schools, holding a 1-3 record.
Crashing the Boards
If there is one area of the game that is serving Houston well, it is the ability to rebound the basketball. Despite losing its first two games, the Cougars have shown that they will crash the boards to battle for rebounds. In two games, they have averaged 50.0 rebounds, pulling down 61 rebounds in the loss to Alabama and 39 in the loss at Mississippi State. Incredibly, the Cougars hold a -12.0 rebounding margin after giving up a total of 124 rebounds in two games. They were outrebounded 65-39 in the loss to Mississippi State, but they won the rebounding battle against Alabama 61-59.
Players to Watch
Freshman guard Jessieka Palmer has scored 29 total points in her first two games. She posted 10 points in her college debut, marking the first time a Houston freshman scored in double figures in a road debut since 2005, and she followed that up with a team-high 19 points against Alabama on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Yasmeen thompson has had a major impact for the Cougars after transferring from Paris Junior College, averaging 6.5 points and 11.5 rebounds through the first two games. Thompson played limited minutes in the opener at Mississippi State due to foul trouble, but played a team-high 39 minutes against Alabama on Tuesday, posting nine points and 17 rebounds, which ranks as the 15th most in a single game on Houston's rebounding charts.
With nine players standing at least six feet tall, and four players standing at 6'2" or taller, Houston holds a significant height advantage going into this weekend's contest against Yale. The Cougars stand at an average height of 5'11". Yale's roster features seven players that are at least six feet tall, but two of them are on the sidelines with Alexandra Osborn-Jones (6'1") and Arrice Bryant (6'2") out with injury.
The 2012-13 season marks the 40th season of women's basketball at Yale University. In 1972-73, women's basketball appeared on the Yale scene as a club sport and became a varsity sport the following year. The Bulldogs made an impressive Ivy debut, finishing second in the League in 1974-75. In 1976, Louise O'Neal was hired as the first full-time women's basketball coach and Yale won its first Ivy League championship in 1978-79. The Bulldogs have won 438 games since their debut. A total of nine men and women have coached women's basketball at Yale, and there have been 35 women who have been named captain in those 40 seasons. In its 40 seasons, the women's basketball team has seen one player win Ivy League Player of the Year award (Tonya Lawrence, 1988-89), four Ivy League Rookies of the Year (Sarah Halejian, 2011-12; Melissa Colborne, 2006-07; Katy Grubbs, 1995-96; Mary Kalich, 1991-92), 18 players on the All-Ivy League First Team, and 17 players score more than 1,000 career points. Throughout the season, Yale will be celebrating the program's historic achievement.
Kelsey Hogan scored six of her 14 points and Morgan Frame added five of her 13 points in an 11-2 run that proved to be the difference in New Hampshire's 57-51 win over Yale Wednesday night. Yale was leading 46-42 with 5:20 left in the game before the Wildcats turned the game around with the 11-2 push. Hogan went 6-for-6 from the line in the final 5:02 to secure the victory for the Wildcats. New Hampshire had five players score at least seven points, with Hogan and Frame the only players in double figures. Sophomore guard Sarah Halejian scored 10 of her 12 points in the second half to lead the Bulldogs. Four Yale players scored at least seven points, but only Halejian reached double figures.
Brisje Malone led all scorers with 23 points to propel Holy Cross to an 87-71 win over Yale in the season-opener for both teams. The Crusaders were playing without senior forward Amy Lepley, the team's leading scorer in 2011-12, who was out due to injury. What was a surmountable six-point halftime deficit turned to a 23-point blowout after Holy Cross took an 86-63 lead with 1:42 left. Sophomore Sarah Halejian, last year's Ivy League Rookie of the Year, tallied 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.
Yale's best effort in its 87-71 opening loss at Holy Cross came from a surprising source. Freshman guard Nyasha Sarju may have been making her collegiate debut, but she showed a veteran presence on the court, leading the Bulldogs with 18 points on 7-for-17 shooting, 4-for-8 from 3-point range, in 27 minutes off the bench. She also tallied three rebounds, one assist and one steal, making her first game in a Yale uniform a memorable one. In the home loss to New Hampshire, Sarju was Yale's second-highest scorer, following up her debut with a nine-point effort. She is currently tied with sophomore guard Sarah Halejian atop Yale's scoring leaderboard, with an average of 13.5 points per game.
Yale will board a plane Sunday morning to head to Chicago to play a pair of games during the week of Thanksgiving. On Monday, Yale will visit Big East powerhouse DePaul, reuniting Yale assistant coach Jarietta Benton, a 2006 DePaul graduate, with her former head coach, Doug Bruno. On Wednesday, Nov. 21, the Bulldogs will take on Big 10 foe Northwestern, reuniting with former assistant coach Allison Guth, who joined the Wildcats coaching staff this summer.
Welcome to Yale
Yale welcomes five new faces to the roster in 2012-13. Lauren Thomer replaces Allison Guth as an assistant coach and Yale's recruiting coordinator. Four players have also been added to the roster as freshman for the 2012-13 season. Guards Whitney Wyckoff and Nyasha Sarju, forward Meredith Boardman, and center Emmy Allen, are all expected to play a big part in the Bulldogs' plans this season. Allen, a 6-foot-3 center, was rated as the 27th top post player in the nation by ESPN last year. Boardman, a 6-foot-1 forward, was listed among the Chicago area's top 50 players by the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune. Sarju, a 6-foot-tall shooting guard from Seattle, Wash., was listed as the 56th best wing player in the nation by ESPN. Wyckoff, a 5-foot-9 guard from West Chester, Ohio, was averaging 12.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.3 steals, 2.3 assists and 2.0 blocks per game through the first four games of the season at Lakota East High School before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Sophomore guard Sarah Halejian made quite the first impression in her first season at Yale. Halejian became just the fourth Yale player to be named the Ivy League's Rookie of the Year, joining Melissa Colborne (2006-07), Katy Grubbs, (1995-96) and Mary Kalich (1991-92). Halejian played in all 28 games for the Bulldogs with 22 starts, including starts in the final 20 games of the season. She averaged 8.1 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game in her rookie season. Her best month of the season came in a seven-game stretch in January where she averaged 12.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists, earning four consecutive Rookie of the Week honors in the month. She ended the season with six Ivy League Rookie of the Week awards, tying the Yale record for the most Rookie of the Week awards in a season by a single player.
Tough Opponents on the Horizon
In the latest USA Today Top 25 Coaches' Poll, which was released on Tuesday, Nov. 13, three of Yale's 2012-13 opponents gained some recognition among the poll's voters. While none of the three made it into the Top 25, Georgetown (59 points), DePaul (13 points) and Marist (7 points) all received votes in the poll. The coaches who vote in the poll rank their Top 25, with first-place votes counting for 25 points and a 25th-place vote counting for one point.
Yale enters the 2012-13 season with three players recovering from significant injuries. Sophomore guard Hayden Latham is expected to miss the entire season after tearing the ACL in her left knee during preseason workouts in September. Junior forward Alexandra Osborn-Jones and sophomore center Arrice Bryant are expected to miss the opening weeks of the season while recovering from their injuries. Osborn-Jones had surgery on her right ankle surgery during the summer, while Bryant broke a bone in her hand.
Gobrecht Joins 500 Club
Yale head coach Chris Gobrecht was the fourth coach during the 2011-12 season to surpass 500 career victories with Yale's 86-73 win over Cornell on Feb. 10, 2012. Gobrecht currently holds a 503-430 overall record, all at the Division I level. Holy Cross coach Bill Gibbons became the first of the six to reach 500 wins on Dec. 3, 2011. DePaul head coach Doug Bruno (12/31) and Kennesaw State head coach Colby Tilly (1/7) also joined the 500-win club last season. Gobrecht has coached for five programs in her career. She went 84-92 at Cal-State Fullerton, 243-89 at Washington, where she is the Huskies' all-time winningest head coach, 5-22 in one season at Florida State, and 93-108 at Southern California, her alma mater. To date, Gobrecht is 77-119 in her eight seasons at Yale, which is the third most coaching victories in Yale's history. She needs two wins to pass Diann Nestel (79-78) and 30 wins to pass Cecelia DeMarco (107-127), Yale's all-time winningest head coach.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Senior Allie Messimer takes over for Michelle Cashen '12 as Yale's captain for the 2012-13 season, the 35th captain in Yale's 40 seasons. Messimer has served as one of Yale's top reserves in her career. On the court, she is one of Yale's top outside threats, leading the team in 3-point shooting percentage last season. Off the court, she has been a driving force behind Yale's annual Pink Zone plans.
Ivy Preseason Poll
Yale was selected third in the Ivy League's preseason poll following a third-place 8-6 finish last season. The Bulldogs received 96 points from a panel of Ivy League media and women's basketball sports information directors. The top three picks in the poll were separated by just 36 points. With 132 points and 13 first-place votes, Princeton was selected to finish first in the standings for the fourth straight season. Harvard was second with 120 points and four first-place votes. Penn (76), Brown (61), Cornell (58), Dartmouth (46), and Columbia (23) round out the final five spots in the preseason poll.
Strength of Schedule
Yale's non-league schedule continues to offer tough tests in preparation for the Ivy League's 14-game stretch that closes out the season. Each season, Yale head coach Chris Gobrecht puts together a tough non-league slate to prepare her players for a run at the Ivy League championship, and this season's non-league schedule should test the Bulldogs right from the start. The schedule includes three games against teams from two of the toughest conferences in the nation. Yale will visit Chicago in November to take on Big East powerhouse DePaul and Big Ten force Northwestern. Big East power Georgetown is on the December schedule. In total, six of the 14 teams on the non-league schedule played in the postseason last season including Holy Cross and New Hampshire (Women's Basketball Invitational), Quinnipiac (WNIT) and DePaul, Georgetown and Sacred Heart (NCAA).
Picking on the Patriot
For the fifth straight season, Yale will face Patriot League foes Holy Cross, Army and Bucknell. In the previous four seasons, Yale was 9-3 against the Patriot trio. Yale went 3-0 last season against the three teams, beating Holy Cross and Army at home and scoring a road win at Bucknell. The Bulldogs went 2-1 against the trio in 2010-11, beating Holy Cross on the road and Bucknell at home, but losing at Army. Yale swept the three teams in 2009-10, but dropped two of three in 2008-09, gaining the lone win against Holy Cross.
Yale Tales and Tidbits
College Sports Madness named Yale senior guard Megan Vasquez to its Preseason All-Ivy First Team in its Ivy League preseason preview last month. The Internet publication also named Yale junior forward Janna Graf to its Preseason All-Ivy Second Team.
Follow the Bulldogs
Be sure to follow the Yale women's basektball team throughout the 2012-13 season on Twitter (@YaleWBBDawgz) and on Facebook ("Yale WBB").
Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity