Tremendous defensive performance leads women past UR, 62-49

Janelle Rodriguez '14 (Photo by Sportspix/Jan Volk)
Janelle Rodriguez '14 (Photo by Sportspix/Jan Volk)

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Brandeis University women's basketball team defeated the visiting University of Rochester Yellowjackets, 62-49, snapping a seven-game University Athletic Association (UAA) losing streak in the process. The Judges move to 8-12 overall, 2-7 in the UAA, while UR falls to 15-5, 7-2 UAA.

With the game tied at 25-25 at halftime, Rochester's Jackie Walker (Ann Arbor, Mich./Greenhills) scored the first hoop of the second half. Brandeis answered with the next six points of the game and never trailed again. Junior Kasey Dean (Southbury, Conn./Pomperaug) tied the game with a midrange jumper and classmate Janelle Rodriguez (Peabody, Mass./Peabody Veterans) hit the next two buckets to give Brandeis a 31-27 lead they would not relinquish.

Brandeis looked to pull away for good at the 15:32 mark, when rookie guard Samantha Mancinelli (Durham, Conn./Coginchaug Regional) hit a jumper and a 3-pointer on back-to-back possessions. After both sides had a long scoreless drought, senior Courtney Ness (Norwich, Vt./Hanover, N.H.) hit her lone bucket of the game making it a 41-32 lead for the Judges at the 12:39 mark.

UR would score eight of the next 11 points, the last six coming from junior center Lauren Wagner (Traverse City, Mich./Traverse City West). Wagner's two free throws at the 8:17 mark got the 'Jackets to within 44-40, but four different Judges scored the game's next seven points to push the lead back to 11 and they never looked back.

Brandeis's defense was outstanding down the stretch, holding the visitors to just 3-of-17 shooting over the final nine minutes of action. They also forced six turnovers in that span. Meanwhile, the Judges hit 5-of-10 from the field and did not commit any turnovers.

For the game, Rodriguez led all scorers with 13 points, 11 coming in the second half, when she hit 5-of-7 from the floor to finish at 6-of-11 for the game. Dean joined her in double figures with 10 points, six in the second half. Mancinelli and junior forward Nicolina Vitale (Clinton Township, Mich./Chippewa Valley) each had eight points off the bench.

Senior Samantha Anderson (Johnsonville, N.Y./Hoosic Valley) led Brandeis with nine rebounds, while sophomore Hannah Cain (Gloucester, Mass./Gloucester) had seven. The Judges had 15 offensive boards to 22 for UR, but Brandeis was able to convert theirs into 22 second chance points, compared to just 10 for the visitors. Senior forward Erika Higginbottom (Millbury, Mass./Worcester Acad.) had a game-high four assists, with Cain and Dean adding three each as the Judges had 14 helpers on 24 buckets. Brandeis shot 42.9% from the floor (24-56), their highest percentage in nearly a month.

Dean also led Brandeis's defensive charge with five steals, a career-high, as the Judges forced 19 turnovers and finished with only 12, including just one in the second half. Brandeis owned a 21-6 scoring margin in points off turnovers. Their fine team defensive effort held UR to 26.7% from the field (16-60), just the third time all season they were below 30 percent.

UR was paced by sophomore Breanna Madrazo (Palos Verdes, Calif./Chadwick), who had 11 points, while Wagner finished with nine off the bench. Wagner just missed a double with 10 rebounds, while senior Amy Woods (Bala Cynwyd, Pa./Lower Merion) had a game-high 11 caroms and finished with seven points. The Yellowjackets converted just 3-of-23 from 3-point range for the game (13.0%) after hitting 41 percent in New York a week ago (5-12). With the loss, Rochester falls a game behind Emory atop the UAA standings.