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Yale Bounces Back With Win Over Bucknell

Allie Messimer. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Allie Messimer. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Bulldogs hold Bison to 3 points over final 7:28 to clinch victory

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The defensive effort that went missing in the second half of each of the last two games finally returned for the Yale women's basketball team, and it could not have come at a better time.

Following losses in both games of the Fordham Holiday Classic in which the Bulldogs could not find answers for the big second-half runs that both Fordham and Villanova put together to secure the wins in those games, they turned things around in a hurry against Bucknell on Sunday.

Yale forced 13 Bucknell turnovers in the second half on Sunday and held the Bison without a field goal over a 7:28 span late in the game to secure a 69-58 victory in the final non-conference home game of the season.

The two teams battled back and forth for the first 33 minutes of the game. Yale (4-9) and Bucknell traded leads throughout the first 10 minutes of the game. However, when sophomore guard Megan Vasquez hit a 3-pointer to give Yale a 20-19 lead with 9:24 left in the half, it turned out to be Yale's last lead until there was 6:59 left in the game.

The Bison (3-9) took control over the rest of the opening half and managed to build a 29-23 lead with 4:04 left in the half. The Bulldogs did not want to let the game slip away, however, and closed the half with a 7-2 run that trimmed the deficit to 31-30 at halftime.

The Bison tried to pull away early in the second half, twice building six-point leads at 40-34 just 2:40 into the half and again at 50-44 with 12:29 remaining.

However, where the Bulldogs allowed similar situations to get away from them in the two Holiday Classic losses, they did not allow a repeat of that scenario against the Bison.

Over the next 5:40, Yale used a 12-5 run to regain the lead for the first time since it was 20-19. Yale would tie the score six times in between those two leads, but it could not overtake Bucknell until there was 6:49 left in the game. And once the Bulldogs regained that lead, they did not relinquish it the rest of the way, relying on an intense defensive effort over the remaining minutes to put the game out of reach.

Once it had the lead, Yale's defense shut down Bucknell's offense. Shelby Romine's 3-pointer with 7:29 remaining was the last Bucknell field goal until the freshman guard scored on a layup with 1 second remaining on the clock. 

"It was the teamwork of our defensive effort that made the difference down the stretch," said Chris Gobrecht, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954, Head Coach of Women's Basketball. "People were talking. People were rotating. People were there for each other. I think that made them all feel a lot more confident about what they were trying to do."

Bucknell managed to put only three points on the board after Romine's 3-pointer, with a lone free throw coming from Joyce Novacek with 4:52 left.

"She is really going to be a really good point guard for them. She is only a freshman and she is really a nice player. She pretty much carried them for a while in the second half," Gobrecht said. "Bucknell executes very well. What I thought our team did well was I thought we adjusted to what they were trying to do and the way they were trying to score. I thought our team did a very good job of adjusting and talking to each other. A lot of those adjustments, they made them on their own out there on the floor. I was very impressed with that. Bucknell was good at reading whatever it was that we did. Our players really just had to work it out together."

Vasquez scored nine of her 16 points in the first half to help the Bulldogs keep pace early on. Senior forward Mady Gobrecht scored 11 of her 15 points in the second half to help the Bulldogs pull away. She also had seven assists and four rebounds. Junior forward Michelle Cashen scored 10 of her 14 points in the second half and also pulled down eight rebounds. Freshman forward Janna Graf nearly notched her first career double-double with eight points and nine rebounds.

Romine scored a game-high 22 points, including 15 points in the second half. Felicia Mgbada had 14 points, while Novacek added 11 points and seven rebounds.

Yale outrebounded Bucknell 37-25, including 14-5 on the offensive glass. The Bulldogs shot 15-for-18 from the free-throw line, including 12-for-14 in the second half.

Yale closes out the non-conference portion of its 2010-11 schedule when it visits Army on Sunday, Jan. 9. The Bulldogs then tip off Ivy League play on Jan. 14 at home against Brown.

Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity