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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Women’s Basketball Team Advances to Sweet 16

Published: March 13, 2009
Section: Sports

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BBALL: Brandeis players after the clock hits zero on their 79-52 NCAA tournament win last Saturday.<br /><i>PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot</i>

BBALL: Brandeis players after the clock hits zero on their 79-52 NCAA tournament win last Saturday.
PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot

This past weekend the Brandeis women’s basketball team accomplished a feat they have fallen short of for the past three years: advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.

With their 62-49 victory over Western Connecticut State University Colonials on Friday night and the nearly 30-point win over Mount Saint Mary’s College Blue Knights, with a final score of 79-52, Brandeis has earned the right to head to Amherst this weekend for the third round of play. When asked how she felt, Amanda Wells ’09 said getting into the Sweet Sixteen was, “surreal.”

In the game against Mount Saint Mary’s, there was never really a question of who the dominant force was. Brandeis started off the game strong and quickly jumped out to a 16-2 lead, hitting each of their first six shots in the first five and a half minutes of the game while forcing Mount Saint Mary’s to miss their first seven-of-eight. Both Jessica Chapin ’10 and Diana Cincotta ’11 were responsible for five points during the Judges’ opening run. From that point forward, the closest the Blue Knights would be able to get to tying the game was twelve points away.

The domination by Brandeis was impressive and also a bit surprising. Mount Saint Mary’s entered as the top-ranked defensive team in the country, holding their opponents to shoot 28.7% from the floor; Brandeis shot 55.3% on the night. Another contributing factor to the Judges victory was their 37-29 rebounding advantage. In addition, the Judges put up 79 points when the Blue Knights only allowed an average of 48.9 points per game. In an interview after the game Mount Saint Mary’s coach Randall Ognibene said he thought his girls did a good job trying to close the gap in the second half but “the board didn’t show that.” When asked about the effective collapse of his team’s defense he responded with, “What defense?… [Brandeis] was bigger, stronger, quicker… They performed the best of any team we saw this year.”

The Judges were paced by Chapin, who scored 13 of her 18 points in the first half. She also had a game-high seven assists. Two other Brandeis players reached double digits in points on Saturday, and, even more impressively, they were both rookies. Kelly Ethier ’12 had a career-high 13 points, going 4-of-7 from the field including two 3-pointers and nailing 3-of-4 from the line. Morgan Kendrew ’12 started the game and contributed 12 points, hitting 3 out of her 4 attempted trifectas. Co-Captain Cassidy Dadaos ’09 expressed in a press conference after the game how proud she was of the freshmen stepping up the way they have. “[Their] confidence level is up… They’ve adjusted to the level we’re at.” Cincotta and Lauren Orlando ’09 both scored nine points during the game as well. One of the major contributors to the Judges scoring was Amber Strodthoff ’11, who had eight rebounds, four of which were offensive.

The first round game against the Western Connecticut State University Colonials was much different than the sweeping victory the Judges had Saturday over Mount Saint Mary’s. For starters, Brandeis won this match up by thirteen points rather than the nearly thirty-point win they had Saturday. Also, they had to come from behind in the second half to get the win. This was only the second time this season Brandeis was able to turn the game around and come back from a halftime deficit. In the first half, there were five ties and four lead changes. While Brandeis started off with a 12-5 lead six minutes into the game, something changed with 7:48 remaining. From that point forward in the first the Judges missed their last nine shots and allowed six turnovers. The Colonial’s last eight points of the half came from the free throw line after the Judges got themselves into foul trouble. At halftime the visitors held a 22-21 lead, with 12 of those points coming from the free throw line despite shooting only 4-for-20 from the field. “Some of [allowing them so many free throws] was us just being a little overaggressive,” said Brandeis coach Carol Simon after the game. “We were just too amped.”

Brandeis scored the first two shots of the second half with an Orlando lay-up and a three-pointer by Cincotta to give the Judges a 26-22 lead just a minute into the half. They couldn’t keep that momentum going, however, and Western Connecticut answered back by scoring 13 of the next 14 points of the game. Despite another trifecta by Cincotta with 13:09 left in the game, the Colonials held their largest lead of 40-30. It was here that the Judges turned things around.

Defensively, they finally got their game back together, allowing only three field goals for the rest of the game, as they got over their concern about getting into the same foul trouble they did in the first half. They also turned up the offensive pressure, hitting eight of their last 13. Cincotta tied the game at 41-41 with a lay-up with only 9:05 remaining on the clock. Western Connecticut took their last gasp at regaining the lead off a three-pointer by Stacey Roberts ’09, but jumpers by Orlando and Cincotta over the next minute claimed the lead for good. They held the Colonials off from scoring for over three minutes while Orlando tacked on another four points from foul shots. With 5:04 remaining, the Judges held a 49-45 lead and kept going from there, adding another nine points from the line as well as a lay-up by Orlando. In the last minute of play Western Connecticut made two lay-ups, but by that point the game was over, the final score standing at 62-49. In the second half Brandeis outshot Western Connecticut 41-27.

Every eligible player got off the bench for the Judges in the game and two of them, Chapin and Cincotta, played the most minutes of anyone on the court with just under 40 and 36 minutes respectively. When looking at who contributed the most to the win, a lot of attention needs to be paid to Orlando who scored 15 points in the second half, 12 of which came during the decisive run at the end. She was also responsible for snagging eight rebounds overall and five in the second. Cincotta was also very impressive during the game, scoring 12 of her career-high 14 points in the second half by going 3-for-3 from the line and 4-for-4 from the field. Chapin, who was noticeably tired after playing nearly the entire match up (and who can blame her?), kept Brandeis alive in the first half, leading all players with eight points and seven rebounds. Overall, she had three steals, three blocked shots, 12 points, and nine rebounds, only one short of her third-straight double-double. Kendrew and Strodthoff led the game with three assists each.

Brandeis outshot Western Connecticut 40.4% to 28.3% overall in the game and 24-8 in points in the paint, which again points back to how much those foul shots played into the game in the first half. The Judges also had their second-largest rebounding advantage of the season with 38-24. This come-from-behind victory certainly helped to build the Judges confidence. Once they settled in and took it one possession at a time, they got down to business and did what they had to do to win the game. A special guest to the press table was Chapin’s “Gram,” who shouted out encouragement to the girls throughout both games this past weekend. After the victory she told The Hoot, “It’s over and thank God we won” and went on to say how proud she was of Jessica, but also the team as a whole. In a post-game interview Chapin told the press how much having that support meant to her and told us, “She’s been there for every game of my life.”

Brandeis will face off against Muhlenberg College, who beat Bowdoin 58-57 last weekend to qualify, at Amherst College on Friday night at 5 PM. The winner will continue on to the Elite Eight Saturday night at 6 PM and play either Amherst or NYU.