Rashford's 18 points, fine rebounding effort lead No. 19 women past No. 20 Chicago, 63-53

Rashford's 18 points, fine rebounding effort lead No. 19 women past No. 20 Chicago, 63-53

WALTHAM, Mass. - The Brandeis University women's basketball team got a career-high 18 points from junior guard Lauren Rashford (Whitesboro, N.Y./Whitesboro) to lead the Judges, ranked No. 19 in the d3hoops.com national poll, past No. 20 Chicago, 63-53, in a University Athletic Association contest. Brandeis wraps the first half of UAA play at 13-4, 3-4 in the conference, while Chicago falls to 13-5, 4-3 UAA.

Rashford scored 11 of her 18 points in the second half. She hit 6-of-10 from the field for the game, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range. Junior Jessica Chapin (Mendon, N.Y./Honeoye Falls-Lima) added 12 points, seven coming in the first half, while grabbing a game-high eight rebounds. Chapin keyed a fine team effort by  Brandeis on the boards that outrebounded the league-leaders in rebound margin, 38-24, UC's largest deficit of the season. The Judges also connected on a 42.9 percent from the field (18-42) against a team that was holding foes to just 30 percent shooting for the season, tops in NCAA Division III, while outscoring the Maroons, 22-13, from the free-throw line.

Chicago got 17 points from rookie guard Bryanne Halfhill (Canfield, Ohio). Halfhill shot 6-of-14 from the floor, 3-of-7 from 3-point range, and 2-of-2 from the line. Senior guard Alex Leach (Gurnee, Ill./Warren) added nine points and sister Stacy added seven off the bench, but no other Maroon player had more than six points. Rookie forward Gabrielle Blackwell (Schaumberg, Ill./Schaumberg) led the visitors with five rebounds.

After Chicago took an early 5-2 lead on a Halfhill trifecta, Brandeis scored the next nine points of the game - four by Rashford - to claim an 11-5 lead they would never relinquish. The lead was still six points, 23-17, following a deep ball by UC junior guard Jamie Stinson (Topeka, Kans./Shawnee Heights) with 7:27 left before the break. Brandeis pulled away at that point, closing the half on a 16-2 run, holding the visitors to just 1-for-8 shooting with six turnovers in the stretch. Meanwhile, the Judges hit 3-for-7 and all six of their free throws over the run, taking a 36-19 lead into the break. The 19 points were Chicago's lowest total of the season, while the Judges' 36 points came on 54.5 percent shooting (12-22).

Chicago came out of the locker room reinvigorated, however, as they opened the stanza on a 16-3 streak of their own. Brandeis committed seven turnovers in the first eight minutes after committing just nine in the first half. The Judges also missed seven of their first eight shots as UC climbed back into the contest behind five points each from Halfhill and Alex Leach, whose jumped with 12:24 left cut the lead to four at 39-35.

Brandeis snapped out of their funk at that, point, guided by four straight points from senior Amanda Wells (Loudon, N.H./Merrimack Valley). Wells hit two free throws and then a jumper from the foul line to push the lead back to eight, 43-35. A Rashford trifecta the next trip down the floor, followed by two more Wells foul shots got the margin to 13, 48-35, midway through the frame.

After a long scoreless stretch with Brandeis leading, 52-41, Chicago made another run with six unanswered points on two Halfhill free throws, a Stinson trifecta and a foul shot by Stacey Leach. Leach missed the second free throw, however, and Rashford answered with a dagger 3-pointer that pushed the lead to eight, and the Judges were able to hang on from there. Chicago was able to get back into the game by converting 14 Brandeis turnovers in the second half into 20 points, but 13-of-17 shooting from the line by the Judges was able to counter the surge.

The same two teams will meet next weekend, when Brandeis kicks of the second half of the UAA schedule on Friday night at Chicago's Ratner Center at 9:00 p.m. EST.