Yale Bulldogs (5-9, 0-0 Ivy League) vs. Brown Bears (6-8, 0-0 Ivy League)
After recording the most Ivy League wins in a two-year span (18; 10-4 in 2010-11, 8-6 in 2011-12) in the program's history, Yale begins its quest for its first Ivy League championship since 1979 with the home portion of home-and-home set with Brown. In Brown, Yale is facing the second-toughest defense in the Ivy League. The Bears allow just 57.9 points per game. Yale is hoping to avenge last year's home loss after Brown escaped with a 60-55 win to split the series. Yale is led by sophomore guard Sarah Halejian, the team leader in scoring (13.4 points per game) and assists (3.4 assists per game). Junior guard Janna Graf is second on the team in scoring (12.2 ppg.) and rebounding (5.0 rpg.). She is also the Ivy League leader in made 3-pointers per game (2.4).
Brown started its season with just two wins in its first seven games, but appeared to find its way with three wins in four games, including wins over common opponents New Hampshire (50-43) and Army (48-45). However, after beating Army, Brown dropped losses at Lafayette (56-32) and Holy Cross (83-66) before closing out non-league play with a buzzer-beating 53-51 win over NJIT on Jan. 15. The Bears lost junior starting guard Lindsay Nickel to an left knee injury in the loss at Holy Cross and did not play in the win over NJIT. Brown is averaging just 52.2 points per game. However, the key to Brown's success is the play of its defense, which has held opponents to just 57.9 points per game, which is ranked second in the Ivy League. Brown is also second in the league in Field Goal Defense (35.8 percent) and 3-Point Field Goal Defense (25.6 percent). Brown is led by junior guard Lauren Clarke, who is averaging a team-high 13.8 points per game. Senior guard Sheila Dixon is second on the team in scoring (11.9 ppg.) and the team leader in rebounding (5.0 rpg.). However, no other Brown player is averaging more than 6.8 points per game.
The series with Brown dates back to Yale's first season as a varsity program in 1973-74. This is the 75th meeting in the all-time series between Brown and Yale. Brown leads the series 42-32. Yale has held the upper hand of late, winning four of the last five meetings. However, the last time Brown paid a visit to Yale, it left New Haven with a 60-55 victory in the second game of home-and-home series last season. That win by Brown snapped Yale's four-game winning streak over the Bears that included a sweep of the series in 2010-11. Yale is 8-6 over Brown during Chris Gobrecht's tenure as head coach.
During non-league play, Yale was 0-5 when trailing at halftime, but that trend failed to hold true in the Ivy League opener when Yale trailed 32-31 at the half but outscored Brown 44-33 in the second half to pull away with a 75-65 win on Jan. 13, 2012. Yale used a game-high 23 points from Megan Vasquez and career nights from Sarah Halejian and Amanda Tyson to pull out the win. Halejian scored a career-high 18 points in the victory, while Tyson came off the bench to record 10 of her 12 points and seven of her game-high eight rebounds in the second half to help lift Yale. Sheila Dixon scored 20 points in the loss. In the rematch on Jan. 20, Lauren Clarke scored a game-high 15 points to lead Brown to a 60-55 win at Yale. It was Brown's first win at Yale since Jan. 16, 2009. Vasquez scored 14 points for Yale in the loss.
There are two connections to the Nutmeg State on the Brown roster. Sophomore guard Katie Mahoney, from Colchester, graduated from Bacon Academy as the all-time scoring leader with 1,746 points. Brown assistant coach Jonathan Parsons, now in his fourth year with the Bears, also has strong ties to Connecticut. The 2008 graduate of Sacred Heart was a four-year student manager for the men's basketball team. He then served as a volunteer assistant coach at the University of New Haven for a year prior to joining the staff at Brown. He also was an assistant coach for the Connecticut Breeze U-16 AAU program.
Junior guard Lauren Clarke, Brown's leading scorer with 13.8 points per game, has scored in double figures in 12 of Brown's 14 games this season, including a season-high 20 points in three of Brown's first five games of the season. She has recorded at least two 3-pointers in all but two of Brown's games.
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 Takes Battle of the Bulldogs
Yale met Bryant for the first time since the 2009-10 season and returned from the Smithfield, R.I., campus with a 78-65 win to finish the non-league portion of the schedule with a 5-9 record. Amanda Tyson led Yale with a career-high 16 points in the win. Sarah Halejian scored 15 points and tallied five assists and three steals. Megan Vasquez, making her first start of the season, recorded 12 points, seven rebounds, and five assists, while Janna Graf had 12 points and five rebounds. Naana Ankoma-Mensa led all scorers with 22 points and 13 rebound. Halejian scored 12 of her 15 points in the first half, helping Yale to a 31-19 halftime lead. Yale improved to 4-0 when leading at halftime and 4-0 when shooting a better percentage from the floor than the opposing team.
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 Jan. 18, and Yale is ranked No. 9 among the nation's 343 Division I schools in 3-pointers made per game with 8.4 3-pointers per game. Yale is No. 22 in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (35.9 percent). On the defensive end, Yale's 3-point shooting defense was ranked No. 22 in the country. The Bulldogs are holding teams to just 25.6 percent.
Quest for Ivy Glory Begins
The quest for the Ivy League championship is now under way as Princeton and Harvard dominated in their respective Ivy League openers on Jan. 12 to tip off the double round-robin schedule. As the only Division I conference without a postseason tournament, the Ivy League's 14-game conference slate becomes the "tournament" to determine which Ivy team wins the title and earns an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament. The team that finishes the season in second place earns the Ivy League's automatic bid to the Women's National Invitational Tournament. Yale earned its first-ever WNIT bid in 2011 after finishing a program-best 10-4 in league play. The Bulldogs begin Ivy League play at Brown on Friday. Princeton is the three-time defending Ivy League champion. Yale is pursuing its first Ivy League championship since the 1978-79 season, when the league champion was determined in a mid-season tournament
A Grand Win over the Bison
In the 1,000th game in Yale's 40-year history, Yale cruised to an 82-62 win over Bucknell on Jan. 5. It was Yale's fourth straight win over Bucknell. The Bulldogs forced 26 Bucknell turnovers and used those miscues to score 36 points on the offensive end. Four players scored in double figures, led by Megan Vasquez, who scored 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting. Sarah Halejian scored 15 points, while Janna Graf and Zenab Keita each added 14 points. Yale shot 31-for-61 (50.8 percent), which was its best shooting performance of the season.
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 past Diann Nestel (79-78) and into sole possession of second place on Yale's all-time coaching victories list. After the win over Bucknell on Jan. 5, Gobrecht now has 82 wins and is now 25 wins behind Cecelia DeMarco (107-127), Yale's all-time winningest head coach.
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.
Following Saturday's game, Yale will visit Brown in the second game of its Ivy League season. The Bulldogs and Bears close out their season series at 6 p.m. on Jan. 25 at Brown. Yale has won four of the last five meetings entering this season, but the teams split their series last season, with the road team winning both games.
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Report filed by Jon Erickson, Jr., Yale Sports Publicity