WOMEN’S BASKETBALL | Elis fall in season opener

Center Zenab Keita ’13 and guard Janna Graf ’14 contributed seven rebounds each and 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Center Zenab Keita ’13 and guard Janna Graf ’14 contributed seven rebounds each and 12 and 11 points, respectively. Photo by Vivienne Jiao Zhang.

Yale women’s basketball dropped its season opener 71–87 Friday at Holy Cross, despite an 18-point performance from guard Nyasha Sarju ’16.

“Nyasha has been a steady performer in practice, so her good first game was no surprise. She has a great feel for the game,” head coach Chris Gobrecht said.

Sarju’s 18 points led the Bulldog offense, while guard Sarah Halejian ’15 chipped in 15 points and four assists. Center Zenab Keita ’13 and guard Janna Graf ’14 contributed seven rebounds each and 12 and 11 points, respectively, but they could not overcome an experienced Holy Cross team.

Although Yale trailed by only six at the half, Crusaders (1–0) broke the game open in the second half, leading 63–48 at the 11:38 mark. The Crusaders scored 23 points off of Yale turnovers and an additional 14 fast break points in the game.

“Holy Cross came out hungrier than we did and overall just had a lot more energy. They did a good job of pushing the ball in transition and we struggled against their zone defense,” Halejian said. “As a young team, we definitely took some lessons from their veteran group.”

Holy Cross dominated in nearly every offensive category, including a 48 percent shooting percentage from the field. The Crusaders outscored the Elis 48–20 in the paint and fought for 22 second-chance points compared to 14 for the Bulldogs.

Bright spots for Yale included a 40.7 percent three-point percentage, helped by four three-pointers from Sarju (4-for-8) and two from Graf. Halejian said despite being at a size disadvantage compared to Holy Cross, the Elis battled hard on the boards. The Elis pulled down 37 rebounds to nearly match the Crusaders’ 39.

“It would be awful if we lost to them and knew that there was nothing more we could have done, that we played our best game and weren’t good enough,” Keita said. “But that was not the case at all. We know that we are much better than that and can only go up from here.”

The biggest problems for the Bulldogs proved to be transition defense and turnovers. The Elis let up 14 fast break points while scoring none, and turned the ball over 21 times.

“The turnovers came from struggling with our poise,” Gobrecht said. “Turnovers were probably the biggest disappointment in our game because they gave Holy Cross so many opportunities for easy scores. Plus, that is supposed to be our game.”

The win was the first for the Crusaders in the last five meetings between the two teams.

The Bulldogs will take the court again this Wednesday against the University of New Hampshire. Keita said that the Bulldogs are trying hard to prepare for their home-opener.

“We are working on building a more competitive practice atmosphere that will encourage a greater sense of urgency and persistence, allowing us to be more tenacious and assertive on offense and defense,” Keita said. “We just have to go harder, and we are committed to having that start in practice.”

Yale will tip off against the Wildcats at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

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