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Defense, Balanced Scoring Lift Bulldogs to Victory

Megan Vasquez. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Megan Vasquez. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Four Players Score in Double Figures in Yale Win


NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The Yale University women's basketball team did a little soul searching after its loss at Sacred Heart on Wednesday and found the missing pieces in time for Saturday's game against Bucknell.

A stingy defense and a balanced scoring attack lifted Yale to an 82-62 win over Bucknell inside John J. Lee Amphitheater.

It was Yale's 1000th game in its 40-year history.

The win snapped a three-game losing streak and gave Yale (4-9) its first win since a 66-62 overtime win at St. Francis Brooklyn on Dec. 8.

"I think that we definitely cranked up the effort another notch," said Chris Gobrecht, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954, Head Coach of Women's Basketball. "They did some soul searching after the Sacred Heart game and they watched film on their own and realized they really aren't playing as hard as they could be playing. I think they really took that to heart. They were going to work a lot harder to push the ball up the floor. They were going to work a lot harder to play defense. It was very much an effort thing. We were good and we would have beaten a lot of teams tonight. Bucknell is a really good team."

The Bison (8-6) came into the game with an 8-5 record, already a three-win improvement on last season's 5-25 finish. Prior to Saturday's loss to Yale, the Bison were 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.

The Bulldogs forced 26 Bucknell turnovers and used those miscues to score 36 points on the offensive end, where there were plenty of available scorers.

"We stressed in practice that we really wanted to pressure them and we felt that their post game is so good that we had to help out our post players tonight," Gobrecht said. "I thought that they did such a great job tonight of just working, but we had to help them out by pressuring their perimeter kids."

Four players scored in double figures, led by senior guard Megan Vasquez, who came off the bench to score 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting. She also had five rebounds.

After she was held to her first single-digit scoring effort of the season (nine points) in the Sacred Heart loss, sophomore guard Sarah Halejian scored 15 points and added four assists and three rebounds. Junior guard Janna Graf and junior center Zenab Keita each added 14 points and three assists.

Audrey Dotson scored a game-high 22 points on 10-of-13 shooting to lead Bucknell (8-6), but she was the only Bison to score in double figures. No other Bucknell player scored more than seven points, despite having two other players averaging in double figures entering the game in Shelby Romine (14.4 ppg.) and Alyssa Dunn (10.4 ppg.). Romine and Dunn both finished with just six points.

"Everybody brought the effort," Gobrecht said. "I thought Allie did an exceptional job defensively on Shelby Romine, who is an excellent point guard. Allie just chased her down and really did a good job on her. That, combined with how well our post players worked to play post defense, just made it really hard for them. If we can continue to play with that kind of energy, we're going to be in really good shape."

Yale was outrebounded by Bucknell 35-24, but in holding the Bison to the 35 rebounds was one of the points of emphasis for the Bulldogs, who limited the Bison to 10 rebounds below their season average of 45.2 rebounds per game.

Yale shot 31-for-61 (50.8 percent), which was its best shooting performance of the season, just edging out the 25-for-50 showing (50.0 percent) against Fordham on Dec. 4.

Yale jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead on baskets by Halejian, junior guard Amanda Tyson and Keita, but Bucknell responded with a 9-3 run to tie the game at 9-9 with 13:50 left in the first half.

That was as close as Bucknell could get to overtaking the Bulldogs. Yale never trailed in the game, and that 9-9 score was the game's only tie.

Yale quickly took control of the game with an 11-2 run for a 19-11 lead with 10:43 left in the half and never looked back.

Bucknell managed to cut Yale's lead to 19-14 on a basket and free throw by Rachel Voss with 9:03 left, but that five-point deficit was Bucknell's smallest margin the rest of the way.

The Bulldogs took turns scoring points, turning that 19-14 lead into 39-22 with 1:22 left in the half. Bucknell closed the half with back-to-back baskets to go into the halftime break trailing 39-26.

Yale's lead continued to grow in the second half and by the time senior captain Allie Messimer drained her second 3-pointer of the contest with 9:38 left in the game, Yale had built a 65-40 lead for its largest lead of the game.

Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity