Yale Bulldogs (3-9, 0-0 Ivy League) vs. Bucknell Bison (8-5, 0-0 Patriot League)
Yale welcomes Bucknell to the John J. Lee Amphitheater for the final home game of the non-league schedule on Saturday. The Bulldogs are looking to extend their success over the Bison with the hope that it leads to the first victory of the new year. After losses to Marist, Georgetown and Sacred Heart, Yale is looking to snap a three-game losing streak against a much-improved Bucknell squad that went just 5-25 last season. Yale is led by sophomore guard Sarah Halejian, who is leading Bulldogs in scoring (13.2 points per game) and assists (3.2 assists per game). Junior guard Janna Graf is leading the Bulldogs in rebounding (5.3 rpg.) and steals (27 total steals) and is second on the team in scoring (12.2 ppg.).
While on paper, many of the players on the Bucknell roster have returned from last season, this is not the same Bucknell team that Yale squared off against a year ago. Bucknell struggled in almost every area of the game and finished the 2011-12 season with a 5-25 record. With Aaron Roussell taking over as head coach, the Bison have begun to flourish. With just two freshmen joining the squad this season and four returning starters and 10 total returning players, Bucknell has already surpassed last season's win total and will come to Yale on Saturday with an 8-5 record. The Bison are markedly in several areas, namely in point production and rebounding. The Bison are averaging nearly 12 more points a game (51.3 in 2011-12, 63.2 in 2012-13) and nearly 10 more rebounds per game (35.4 to 45.2). Six of Bucknell's eight wins this season have come against non-league opponents that beat the Bison last season. Junior co-captain Shelby Romine is leading the Bison in scoring (14.4 ppg.), while senior co-captain Lindsay Horbatuck is the leading rebounder (10.6 rpg.).
In a series that dates back to the 1993-94 season, Yale and Bucknell have met seven times, with the Bulldogs holding a 5-2 series advantage over the Bison. After three games in the mid-1990s, the series was renewed in the 2008-09 season. Since then, Yale is 3-1 over Bucknell. With a 69-48 win at Bucknell last season, Yale secured the most lopsided win of the series. In fact, four of the seven games in the series have been decided by 10 or more points. Yale is 4-0 in those games, with an average margin of victory of 17.5 points per win. In games decided by fewer than 10 points, Yale is 1-2 against the Bison, with the only win coming on Dec. 5, 2009, in a 54-50 victory at Bucknell. Yale is 3-1 at home against Bucknell and 2-1 in games played at Bucknell.
Lindsay Horbatuck, Bucknell's senior co-captain, has been a solid post player in her four seasons in Lewisburg. The Avon, Conn., native recently joined Bucknell's 500 points-500 rebounds club, and currently holds career marks of 559 points and 618 rebounds. She has recorded double-digit rebounds in 24 games in her career, including seven times this season. She also has 11 career double-doubles. She is currently leading the Patriot League in rebounding with an average of 10.6 rpg. She is also averaging 8.5 ppg., which is fourth on the team in scoring. In Bucknell's most recent game, Horbatuck recorded a career-high 19 rebounds. However, in her three previous games against Yale, she has averaged just 2.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.7 steals.
In 30 games last season, Bucknell scored 60 or more points just five times, going 3-2 in those five games. The Bison have turned things around after finishing the 2011-12 season at 5-25. At 8-5 so far this season, they have already surpassed last season's win total, and they have reached the 60-point plateau seven times with a 6-1 record in those games. The Bison have scored 70 or more points four times this season, all victories, which is a score that they did not reach in any game last season.
Rebounding on Rebounds
In 2011-12, Bucknell averaged just 35.4 rebounds per game, outrebounding just 10 of their 30 opponents. A big reason for Bucknell's reversal of fortune is the big improvement in its rebounding numbers. Through 13 games, the Bison are averaging 45.2 rebounds per game, an improvement of nearly 10 rebounds a game. The Bison have outrebounded 12 of their 13 opponents, including their last 11 straight opponents. If the season were to end today, that mark would rank sixth in the program record book.
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 441 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.
Yale's bid for its first win over in-state rival Sacred Heart since 1979 fell just short on Jan. 2 as the Pioneers used a late 13-2 run to secure a 67-62 win over the Bulldogs in Fairfield. Yale trailed by as many as 15 points before mounting a charge in the first half to close the gap to 37-32 at halftime. Yale's deficit increased to 47-38 with 14:40 remaining, but the Bulldogs staged a stunning comeback that turned that deficit into a 55-52 lead just 6:18 later. Sacred Heart responded with a 13-2 run that turned Yale's 55-52 lead into a 65-57 deficit with 41 seconds left. The run allowed Sacred Heart to secure its 11th straight win over Yale. Janna Graf scored 18 points to lead the Bulldogs. Sarah Halejian was held to nine points. It was the first time this season that Halejian failed to score in double figures.
Sugar Not Sweet to Yale
Yale visited the nation's capital but struggled to make history as Sugar Rodgers scored 38 points to lead Georgetown to a 90-67 win over the Bulldogs on Dec. 28. Janna Graf matched a season-high with 18 points on six 3-pointers to lead Yale, while Sarah Halejian recorded 15 points, a career-high nine assists and five rebounds. Yale tried to stay within striking distance in the second half. Georgetown twice pushed its lead to 20 points, but the Bulldogs managed to trim that deficit down to 11 points, 76-65, with 3:25 left on Graf's sixth 3-pointer of the night.
Yale Owns OT
Sarah Halejian scored a team-high 17 points, including four of Yale's six points in overtime, to lead the Bulldogs to a 66-62 overtime win at St. Francis Brooklyn on Dec. 8. It was just the third overtime game for Yale in the eight seasons under head coach Chris Gobrecht. The only other overtime games coached by Gobrecht were a 70-66 double-overtime win at Dartmouth on Feb. 13, 2010, and a 77-73 overtime win over visiting Quinnipiac on Dec. 21, 2008. Yale is 6-0 in overtime games since the 2003-04 season. Halejian was the key to the win as 14 of her 17 points came after halftime. Janna Graf had 15 points and seven rebounds. The win was Yale's first on the road this season.
From Way Downtown
Yale's 3-point shooting prowess is among the best in the nation, according to the NCAA. The NCAA released its latest statistical rankings on Dec. 31, and Yale was ranked No. 11 among the nation's 343 Division I schools in 3-pointers made per game with 8.4 3-pointers per game. Yale was No. 29 in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (35.7 percent). On the defensive end, Yale's 3-point shooting defense was ranked 48th in the country. The Bulldogs were holding teams to just 26.2 percent.
Third Career Award for Graf
For the third time in her Yale career, junior guard Janna Graf was named the Ivy League Player of the Week on Dec. 10, following wins over Fordham and St. Francis Brooklyn. Graf earned the award after averaging 16.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 3.5 steals in the pair of wins. On Dec. 4, Graf tallied 18 points, six rebounds and five of Yale's six steals to lift the Bulldogs to a 67-53 win over Fordham. At St. Francis Brooklyn on Dec. 8, Graf closed out her week with 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals in helping to lead Yale to a 66-62 overtime victory. Graf set a new career-high with five steals against Fordham. She also matched a career-high with five made free throws in a perfect 5-for-5 showing at the foul line against Fordham. Graf has picked up her defensive play of late. She has 11 steals and 15 defensive rebounds in her last three games, an average of 5.0 rebounds and 3.7 steals per game in that span.
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. 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 to secure the victory.
Gobrecht Climbing the Yale Ranks
Yale's 67-53 win over Fordham on Dec. 4 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 after the win at St. Francis on Dec. 8, Gobrecht is now 26 wins behind Cecelia DeMarco (107-127), Yale's all-time winningest head coach.
Gobrecht on "Inside Ivy League Basketball"
Yale head coach Chris Gobrecht was the latest Yale representative on the Ivy League's on-demand radio shot. In her interview, Gobrecht discussed Yale's improving play of late, the importance of Yale's four freshmen to the team's success in 2012-13, and the current state of the Ivy League. To hear the interview, visit blogtalkradio.com/insideivyleaguebasketball.
Following Saturday's game, Yale will close out the non-league portion of the 2012-13 schedule with a visit to Northeast Conference opponent Bryant on Jan. 16. It will be Yale's fourth game this season against a team from the NEC. So far, Yale is 1-2 against NEC foes, with the only win coming in a 66-62 overtime win over St. Francis Brooklyn. Yale is 1-1 against Bryant in two meetings, with a 77-71 home win on Jan. 13, 2009, and a 69-62 loss at Bryant on Jan. 18, 2010.
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Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity