Women survive Rochester, 58-57, for first UAA win

Nicolina Vitale '14 (Photo by Sportspix/Mike Broglio)
Nicolina Vitale '14 (Photo by Sportspix/Mike Broglio)

WALTHAM, Mass. — The Brandeis University women's basketball team picked up their first University Athletic Association (UAA) victory of the season tonight by outlasting the visiting University of Rochester, 58-57, in Red Auerbach Arena.

In a game that featured seven ties and five lead changes, Brandeis (7-8, 1-3 UAA) snapped the final deadlock with just under six minutes to go in regulation and survived a last-second shot. Seniors Janelle Rodriguez (Peabody, Mass./Peabody Veterans) and Nicolina Vitale (Clinton Township, Mich./Chippewa Valley) scored six of the team's final eight points. Rodriguez broke a 50-50 tie with a lay-up on a nice feed from sophomore Samantha Mancinelli (Durham, Conn./Coginchaug Regional) at the 5:48 mark.

The teams traded stops before Vitale made it a two-possession game at 4:41, demanding the ball from rookie Paris Hodges (Southampton, N.Y./Southampton) and working into the paint to make it 54-50. The Judges had a chance to go up by six, but UR held on defense and answered on a Danielle McNabb (Bethel Park, Pa./Bethel Park) lay-in with 3:50 remaining. Hodges hit two foul shots 39 seconds later to push the lead back to four, but Yellowjacket senior Lauren Wagner (Traverse City, Mich./Traverse City West) answered on the other end to make it 56-54, Brandeis, with just under three minutes remaining.

Hodges missed on her next attempt, but made up for it by getting a steal on Rochester's next possession. Brandeis chose to milk the clock before Vitale again demanded the ball from Hodges and canned a 12-foot jumper with 1:44 left, making it 58-54 in favor of the home team.

Rochester brought the ball up and called timeout with 1:30 on the clock. McNabb was able to get the free throw line four seconds later, hitting one-of-two to get the Yellowjackets within three. After a Wagner steal, UR scored their last points on a McNabb jumper from junior Ally Zywicki (Liverpool, N.Y./Liverpool) with just over 39 ticks on the clock.

On the Judges' final possession, they called timeout with 30 seconds remaining. They held the ball until about 15 seconds remained in the game, before Hodges dished to classmate Maria Jackson (Rochester, N.Y./Hilton). Jackson then fed senior Kasey Dean (Southbury, Conn./Pomperaug), who drove the lane hoping to draw a foul, but her jumper went hard off the backboard to Wagner.

Rochester brought ball up and got a timeout down one with 5.5 seconds left. After the teams came onto the court, Brandeis called time to reset the defense, then UR burned their final TO in response. When play finally resumed, sophomore Kelsey Hurley (Honeoye Falls, N.Y./Honeoye Falls-Lima) inbounded the ball from near midcourt to McNabb, who dribbled and shot from about 15 feet out, right in front of her bench to the right of basket. The line drive rattled around the rim and nearly dropped home, but popped back out, where Mancinelli corralled the rebound to seal the victory.

The Judges finished with a balanced scoring attack, with four players getting between nine and 11 points. Rodriguez led the squad with 11 points, while Vitale had 10. Both shot 5-of-10 from the field, with Rodriguez adding a free throw in the mix. Rodriguez also had four assists and three steals, while Vitale led all players with four thefts.

Scoring nine points each were a pair of rookies, Hodges and Frankie Pinto (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente). Both had seven of their nine in the first half, helping the Judges stay close, as they trailed by just two, 33-31, at the break. Mancinelli topped the squad with six rebounds, while Hodges added five assists.

Despite being outshot, 48% to 39%, and outrebounded, 39-32, the Judges forced 22 turnovers while committing just 13, earning a 20-8 edge in points off those miscues. They also had a 22-17 advantage in bench scoring.

Rochester was paced by McNabb, who scored a game-high 18 points on 7-of-11 overall with the team's only 3-pointer and 3-of-4 from the line.  She also had three assists, three blocks and three steals. Wagner finished with a double-double of 11 points and game-high 14 rebounds, while sophomore Tylar Guerrieri (Pittsford, N.Y./Our Lady of Mercy) had 10 points off the bench. Zyiwcki had a game-high six assists. This marked the third-straight game UR has played that came down to the final possession, with the 'Jackets having beaten Case and lost to Carnegie Mellon in similar fashion.

      Brandeis will look to earn a second-straight UAA win against seventh-ranked Emory – coming off their first loss of the season - on Saturday at 2 p.m., while Rochester is at NYU at 3 p.m.