Game Day Central: Bulldogs to Visit St. Francis Brooklyn Saturday

Zenab Keita. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Zenab Keita. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Game #9

Yale Bulldogs (2-6, 0-0 Ivy League) at St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers (2-4, 0-0 NEC)


Opening Tip

 The Yale women's basketball team returns to the road in search of its second consecutive victory. The Bulldogs are coming off of an impressive home win over Fordham on Tuesday, led by junior guard Janna Graf, who set a new season-high of 18 points to go with six rebounds and five steals in the win. Yale enters Saturday's game with five players averaging at least 8.1 points per game, with sophomore guard Sarah Halejian leading the way with 13.3 ppg. and Graf just behind her with 10.8 ppg. The Bulldogs face a St. Francis squad that opened its season with two straight wins, but the Terriers are currently mired in a four-game losing skid.





Scouting St. Francis Brooklyn

St. Francis Brooklyn started its season on an high note after scoring a road win at Army in its season-opener and an impressive home win over Delaware State. After opening last season with just one win in their first 17 games, it was a big improvement for the Terriers. For a team that has not won more than four games in a season since 2007-08, things were looking up for the Terriers after they grabbed their first 2-0 start since 1977-78. However, the Terriers have since lost their last four games and enter Saturday's contest against Yale with a 2-4 overall record. Two of those four losses have come against Ivy League opponents, including a 74-56 home loss to Cornell and a 61-60 home loss to Penn. Scoring is an issue for the Terriers, who average just 58.0 points per game, with their leading scorer, Sarah Benedetti, averaging only 9.8 points per game. Rebounding is also a weakness for the Terriers, who average just 33.5 rebounds per game. The Terriers have a total of 201 rebounds, compared to 301 for Yale. Jaymee Veney is the only Terrier with at least 40 rebounds, while three of her teammates have at least 20 rebounds and a total of six Terriers have at least 10 rebounds. Yale has three players with 40 rebounds, while all 10 Bulldogs have at least 10 rebounds this season. The Terriers rely heavily on their 3-point shooting, with 33.3 percent of their made field goals (41 of 123) coming from behind the arc.


Series History

Yale has faced St. Francis just three times before Saturday's game. Yale earned a dominating 72-41 home win on Dec. 18, 2011. Prior to last season's meeting, the two teams had not met since Dec. 13, 1995. The home team has won each of the three previous meeting. St. Francis earned a 66-48 home win on Dec. 30, 1994, while Yale returned the favor with a 53-41 win in New Haven a year later. 


Naming Rights

On Nov. 27, St. Francis College Athletics rebranded itself as St. Francis Brooklyn. The college had been known as St. Francis (N.Y.) when the athletics program joined the Northeast Conference in 1981. The name is somewhat necessary due to the fact that St. Francis (Pa.) is also one of the 12 teams in the NEC. The name change means that "St. Francis Brooklyn" will how the College's athletics teams will be referred to in print, online and on TV.


Epic Collapse

St. Francis Brooklyn appeared to have locked up its third win of the season on Wednesday, but a late rally by Penn spoiled those plans. The Terriers led 33-19 at halftime and extended that lead to its largest of the game (18 points, 57-39) with 7:29 remaining. Penn outscored St. Francis 22-3 the rest of the way, closing the game with a 15-0 run that was capped by Alyssa Baron's game-winning layup with six seconds left in the game, giving the Quakers a 61-60 win.


Fresh Start

John Thurston takes over the reins as the head coach of St. Francis Brooklyn in 2012-13 after former head coach Brenda Milano resigned at the end of last season. Thurston was Milano's associate head coach for two seasons prior to his promotion. Former Columbia assistant coach Nettie Respondek joined Thurston's staff as an assistant coach. The Terriers also welcome three new players to a squad that had no seniors last season. 


Nutmeg Connection

Sophomores Sarah Benedetti and Kelly Myers call Connecticut their home. Benedetti, the Terriers' leading scorer, is a former standout player at Canton High School, while Myers is a former three-sport athlete at Coventry High School. Myers is sitting out the entire 2012-13 season as a medical redshirt.



Celebrating History

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.


Historic Victory

Janna Graf picked a great time to play her best game of the season to date. The junior guard set a new season-high with 18 points on 5-of-7 shooting to lead Yale to a 67-53 win over Fordham on Dec. 4. Graf also had six rebounds and five steals. It was Yale's first win over Fordham since a 92-74 win in New Haven on Dec. 9, 1986. Fordham had won the previous six meetings with Yale. The Bulldogs dominated for the final 26:44 of the game. Yale outscored Fordham 17-8 over the final 6:44 of the first half to take a 31-29 halftime lead, with nine of those points coming from Graf. It was the first halftime lead of the season for the Bulldogs. Yale then used a 17-5 run late in the second half to open up an 18-point lead (65-47) to put the game out of reach. 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.


Gobrecht Climbing the Yale Ranks

Yale's 67-53 win over Fordham on Tuesday improved the Bulldogs' overall record to 2-4 on the season, but the victory also gave Chris Gobrecht her 80th victory as Yale's head coach, moving her into sole possession of second place on Yale's all-time coaching victories list. She moves past Diann Nestel (79-78) and is now 27 wins behind Cecelia DeMarco, Yale's all-time winningest head coach.


From Way Downtown

Yale's 3-point shooting prowess is among the best in the nation, according to the NCAA. The NCAA released its first statistical rankings on Dec. 3, and Yale is ranked No. 6 among the nation's 343 Division I schools in 3-pointers made per game with 8.7 3-pointers per game. Yale is 13th in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (39.1 percent). On the defensive end, Yale's 3-point shooting defense is ranked 19th in the country. The Bulldogs are holding teams to just 21.5 percent.


Sarju Sizzles Behind the Arc

A big reason for Yale's 3-point shooting success is freshman guard Nyasha Sarju. Yale's third-leading scorer (9.8 ppg.) is leading the Bulldogs with 1.88 made 3-pointers per game. She is among the nation's best 3-point shooters. She is shooting 15-for-28 from 3-point range, a success rate of 53.6 percent, which is currently ranked No. 9 in the country, according to the NCAA rankings released on Dec. 3.


Battle Lost at Army

Despite 15 points from freshman guard Nyasha Sarju, all on five 3-pointers, and 12 points from sophomore guard Sarah Halejian, Yale dropped its fourth straight loss of the season in a 53-47 defeat at Army. Anna Simmers scored a game-high 24 points to lead the Black Knights, who defeated Yale for the 13th time in 14 meetings in West Point, N.Y. In the loss, Sarju became the first Bulldog this season to make at least five 3-pointers in a game. She is the first Yale player to accomplish the feat since Megan Vasquez did so on Feb. 12, 2012, against Columbia. The Bulldogs led 32-31 with 13:26 left, but Army outscored Yale 18-10 over the next 6:10 to put the game out of reach.


First Award for Sarju

Yale freshman guard Nyasha Sarju was named the Ivy League's Rookie of the Week on Nov. 26. She earns her first career Ivy League honor after averaging 13.5 points and 3.0 rebounds in Yale's two games at DePaul and Northwestern. In both games, Sarju saved her best for the second half. In the 95-80 loss at Big East powerhouse DePaul, Sarju scored a team-high 16 points to go with four rebounds, two assists and two steals in 22 minutes off the bench. In the second half of that game, Sarju scored 12 of her points on a stellar 5-of-6 shooting and tallied the first blocked shot of her Yale career. In the 83-75 loss at Big Ten opponent Northwestern, Sarju scored all 11 points of her points in the second half.


Victory Dance

Yale rallied to its first win of the season, an 84-82 victory over Houston in New Haven on Nov. 17. Trailing 17-6 after a slow start, the Bulldogs recovered in time to pull within two points, 37-35, at halftime. The Bulldogs dominated the start of the second half, jumping out to a 48-41 lead after opening the period with a 13-4 run that was fueled by an eight-point burst by Sarah Halejian, who finished with 17 points. Trailing 68-61 with 8:59 left, Houston regained control of the game with a 12-0 run to take a 73-68 lead with 5:55 left. The Bulldogs responded and reclaimed control of the game with a 12-0 run of their own to take an 80-73 lead with 2:31 left in the game. Houston closed the game with a 9-4 run and had a chance to win at the buzzer, but Marissa Ashton's desperation shot hit the rim and bounced away, giving Yale its first win of the 2012-13 season.


Keita's Career Night

Zenab Keita, the Bulldogs' junior center, recorded her first career double-double with career-highs in points (18) and rebounds (11) to lead Yale to an 84-82 win over Houston Saturday night. En route to the double-double, Keita set career-bests in field goals made (6) and attempted (12) and she was a perfect 6-for-6 from the free-throw line. Her eight defensive rebounds and four assists were also a career-high, while her three blocks matched a career-high.


Scoring Points

  • Yale has scored at least 75 points three times this season, but is just 1-2 in those games, an 84-82 win over Houston before a 95-80 loss at DePaul and an 83-75 loss at Northwestern. Yale scored at least 75 points on seven occasions in 2011-12, all victories (vs. Holy Cross, at FDU, at Houston, vs. Baruch, at Brown, at Dartmouth, vs. Cornell). In 2010-11, Yale scored 75 points only three times, all in victories (vs. Florida State, vs. Harvard, at Harvard).
  • In the NCAA's Dec. 3 statistics update, Yale is ranked No. 6 among the nation's 343 Division I schools in 3-pointers made per game. The Bulldogs' 8.7 3-pointers made per game.
  • Yale is 13th in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (39.1 percent).
  • On the defensive end, Yale's 3-point shooting defense is ranked 19th in the country. The Bulldogs are holding teams to just 21.4 percent.
  • Freshman Nyasha Sarju is ranked No. 9 in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (53.6 percent) and 114th in 3-pointers made per game (2.14).
  • Yale leads the Ivy League in 3-pointers made per game (8.5) and defensive 3-point shooting percentage (21.4 percent).
  • Yale is second in the Ivy League in free-throw percentage (74.0 percent), 3-point shooting percentage (40.0 percent), rebounding (37.6 rpg.) and offensive rebounds (13.5 orpg.).
  • The Bulldogs are 2-2 at home this season, 0-4 in games away from Yale.


Next Up

Yale will take the next 12 days off to take final exams before returning to action on Dec. 20 against Marist inside the friendly confines of John J. Lee Amphitheater. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. It will be the fifth-ever meeting between the two teams. Marist tied the series at 2-2 after a 78-64 win in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., last season, despite 21 points from Megan Vasquez. Marist has won the last two meetings between the two teams, but the Red Foxes have never won a game at Yale. The Bulldogs won the first two meetings, 94-72 on March 3, 1979, and 67-52 on Dec. 22, 2007, with both wins coming in New Haven.


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 by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity