Graf Leads Yale to First Win over Fordham Since 1986

Janna Graf. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Janna Graf. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Junior Guard Nets Season-High 18 Points, Adds 6 Boards and 5 Steals


NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The hard work finally paid off for the Yale University women's basketball team Tuesday night.

Junior guard Janna Graf scored a season-high 18 points and also recorded six rebounds and five of Yale's six steals to lift the Bulldogs to a 67-53 win over Fordham in non-league play at John J. Lee Amphitheater.

It was Yale's first victory over Fordham since a 92 74 win on Dec. 9, 1986.

Aside from Graf's 18-point night, Yale also saw big performances from sophomore guard Sarah Halejian, who scored 12 points on 6-of-12 shooting, as well as freshman forward Meredith Boardman and senior guard Megan Vasquez. Boardman fell just shy of a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds, while Vasquez added nine points and four assists.

"We push it and we hope that we can eventually wear down the opposing team. I thought we did that tonight," said Chris Gobrecht, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954, Head Coach of Women's Basketball. "I thought we caught Fordham at a good time. They were coming off of a tough road trip. They were a little worn out and we took advantage of it. We wanted to run them ragged tonight, and that's what we did."

Fordham led 21-14 with 6:44 left in the opening half. It was the largest lead of the game for the Rams, but it also the beginning of a dominating show by the Bulldogs, who outscored the Rams 17-8 to close the half and go into the locker room with a 31-29 halftime lead.

It was the first time this season that Yale led at halftime.

Graf scored all nine of her first-half points in the final 4:26 of the period to fuel the Bulldogs' late run, which she jumpstarted with her first of three 3-pointers in the game that tied the score at 21-21 with 4:26 left. Graf also went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in that stretch and scored six of Yale's eight points in a 1:40 span.

Graf's first-half dominance did not end there. She also had four of her six rebounds in the half and three of her five steals.

By the time the final buzzer sounded, Graf had scored her 18 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including a perfect 3-for-3 from 3-point range and 5-for-5 from the free-throw line.

Graf is the first Yale player to record five steals in a game since Vasquez had five against St. Francis (N.Y.) on Dec. 18, 2011.

"What we did better tonight is we worked hard to find the open player," Gobrecht said. "We weren't doing that very well earlier in the season. When we work hard to find the open player and you have good shooters like Janna, they're going to make you pay if you lose track of them."

The Bulldogs came out in the second half and continued to maintain the upper hand. Although Fordham pulled to within one point twice in the opening 3:40 of the half, Yale never relinquished its lead. After Marah Strickland's 3-pointer cut Fordham's deficit to 39-38 with 16:20 left, Yale followed by scoring seven straight points on layups from Vasquez and Halejian and a clutch 3-pointer from Boardman to extend the lead to 46-38 with 10:19 left.

Strickland sank a pair of free throws to cut the Rams' deficit to 48-42 with 8:14 left, but Yale answered with a 17-5 run over the next 5:42, thanks to six points each from both Halejian and Graf. Graf capped the run with her jumper and free throw after she was fouled on the shot attempt to put Yale on top 65-47 with 2:32 remaining. The 18-point lead was Yale's largest of the game and proved to be too much for Fordham to overcome.

Yale shot 25-for-50 from the floor (50.0 percent), 7-for-14 from behind the arc (50.0 percent) and 10-for-11 from the foul line. Fordham held a 37-32 advantage on the boards but only shot 33.9 percent (21-for-62) and just 8-of-27 in the second half (29.6 percent). It was just the second time this season that Yale shot a higher percentage than its opponent.

While it is too early to tell if this is the turning point in the Bulldogs' season, they will take the victory and savor it for at least a day or two before turning their focus to St. Francis (N.Y.), their next opponent. Yale visits the Terriers' Brooklyn campus on Saturday at 2 p.m.

"We are very big-picture oriented. We know we have had a lot to deal with in the early part of the season. We just want to keep getting better," Gobrecht said. "It is really nice to win tonight, but the most important thing is to keep getting better. I am really glad to see the team rewarded for the work they have put into improving."

Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity