January 9, 2009

No. 5 women's rally falls short, 66-62, against top-ranked Rochester

WALTHAM, Mass. - The top-ranked University of Rochester women's basketball team opened on a 12-2 run over the first four minutes of the second half and the Yellowjackets answered a couple of late charges by No. 5 Brandeis University to earn a 66-62 University Athletic Association (UAA) victory in Red Auerbach Arena tonight. With the win, Rochester improved to 10-0 (2-0 UAA), while Brandeis fell to 10-1, 0-1 UAA.

The first half of the contest was as tight as could be, featuring seven ties and nine lead changes. Neither team was able to open an advantage of larger than four points and both of those were early. Rochester was paced by sophomore guard Melissa Alwardt (Greece, N.Y./Greece Athena), who had 11 points, including three 3-pointers, in the first, while Brandeis junior guard Jessica Chapin (Mendon, N.Y./Honeoye Falls-Lima) and sophomore reserve Amber Strodthoff (DePere, Wisc./DePere) had six points apiece for the Judges. Senior Alex Porter (Rockville, Md./Walter Johnson) had seven boards in the first for Rochester, while Chapin and senior Cassidy Dadaos (Healdsburg, Calif./Healdsburg) had four each for Brandeis.

The teams traded buckets out of the intermission, but Rochester answered with back-to-back trifectas by junior guard Jessica Mastronardi (Kendall Park, N.J./So. Brunswick) and Alwardt. Senior forward Julie Marriott (Fairport, N.Y./Fairport) and Porter each connected twice from the line to cap the 12-2 run and give the visitors a 41-31 lead with 16:12 remaining. Chapin answered with a long 3-pointer to briefly stay the momentum, but a Alwardt lay-up and two more Porter freebies gave UR and 11 point edge, 45-34, with just 4:50 gone in the second.

Still down 11, the Judges scored six in a row, including a pair of nice post moves by junior reserve forward Kasey Gieschen (Boonton Township, N.J./Mountain Lakes) that cut the lead to 47-42 with 10:18 left. Rochester responded with a 9-2 run, with five points coming from Marriott and a Jodie Luther (Gibsonia, Pa./Hampton) jumper giving the 'Jackets a 56-44 lead with 6:54 remaining.

Brandeis made its strongest push at that point, with Chapin putting the team on her back. Over the next 3:13, the Judges outscored Rochester, 12-2, with Chapin accounting for seven of the points and Strodthoff the other five. Strodhoff's steal followed by a Chapin 3-pointer with 3:42 left got the hosts within 58-56.

Brandeis forced a turnover on the next Rochester possession, but could not convert. Alwardt then came down and connected from beyond the arc to push the lead to five, 61-56, with 2:24 left. Brandeis hit one-of-two from the line, while Alwardt hit twice on the other end to give Rochester a 63-57 lead with just under two minutes left. Brandeis sophomore Diana Cincotta (W. Boylston, Mass./W. Boylston) connected from deep to get the Judges back within a possession, 63-60, and again the Judges got a stop, but a crucial turnover denied them the opportunity to get any closer, as the Yellowjackets connected on 3-of-4 free throws late to take the 66-62 victory.

For the game, Chapin finished with 20 points for the Judges, 14 coming in the second half. She also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds, one shy of her career-high. Chapin hit 8-of-12 from the field, 2-of-4 from 3-point range and 2-of-3 from the line. Strodhoff was the only other Brandeis player to score in double figures with 11 points, hitting all five of her shots from the floor and her only free throw attempt. The Judges shot 51% from the field, matching their second-best total of the season, and won the battle of the boards, 31-29, but were unable to overcome their 20 turnovers, which was one shy of a season-high.

For Rochester, Alwardt finished with game-high honors with 21 points, 11 in the first and 10 in the second. She connected on 6-of-10 overall, including 5-of-8 from deep and 4-of-5 from the line. Luther came off the bench with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Porter finished with a game-high 13 rebounds and five steals. The Yellowjackets outscored Brandeis, 8-4, from 3-point range and 14-8 from the free-throw line to overcome Brandeis's 26-18 edge in points in the paint.

Brandeis will next take on Carnegie Mellon University on Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m., while Rochester travels to their second-straight unbeaten foe, New York University, at the same time.

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