WALTHAM, Mass. - Brandeis University senior Lauren Orlando (Peabody, Mass./Peabody) scored all of her game-high 15 points in the second half as the Judges rallied from a 10-point deficit with just over 13 minutes remaining to defeat the Western Connecticut State University Colonials, 62-49, in the first round of the NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Tournament. The Judges, hosting an NCAA regional for the first time, advance to face Mount St. Mary (N.Y.) College tomorrow at 5 p.m.
Brandeis (18-7), which overcame a halftime deficit for just the second time this season, put three starters in double figures, led by Orlando's 15. After going 0-for-1 from the field and the free-throw line in the first half, she connected on 4-of-8 from the floor, including her only 3-pointer, and 6-of-7 from the line in the second. Twelve of her 15 points came in the decisive run at the end of the game. Orlando also grabbed eight rebounds, five in the second half.
Also reaching double figures with a big second half for the Judges was sophomore Diana Cincotta (W. Boylston, Mass./W. Boylston), who had 12 of her career-high 14 points in the second stanza, when she went 4-for-4 from the field and 3-for-3 from the line. Rounding out the double-digit scorers was junior guard Jessica Chapin (Mendon, N.Y./Honeoye Falls-Lima), who kept the Judges in the contest in the first half. Chapin led all players with eight points and seven rebounds in the first, finishing one board short of her third-straight double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds, a game-high. She also had three steals and two blocked shots. Rookie guard Morgan Kendrew (Cotuit, Mass./Barnstable) and sophomore forward Amber Strodthoff (DePere, Wis./DePere) led all players with three assists, as the Judges had 13 helpers on 19 baskets.
Brandeis owned a 38-24 rebounding advantage, their second-largest of the season, and outscored the Colonials, 24-8, in points in the paint. The Judges outshot WCSU, 40.4% to 28.3%, including 52.2% to 34.6% in the second half. This marked the second year in a row coach Carol Simon led her team to a come-from-behind win over a Little East squad in the first round, having defeated Southern Maine, 74-71, last season.
Western Connecticut (21-6), used to balanced scoring, had just one player in double figures, sophomore guard Karli Spera (Waterford, Conn./Waterford), who had 10 points, but needed 3-of-10 shooting to get there. Spera had five points in each half. Junior forward Katie Moffo (Southington, Conn./Southington) added nine points and a team-high six rebounds, while sophomore guard Heather Lee (Seymour, Conn./Seymour) added seven points, five in the second half. No WCSU player had more than two assists, while Spera had a team-high two steals and sophomore center Melissa Teel (Hamden, Conn./Hamden) added two blocked shots. The Colonials converted 20 Brandeis turnovers into 20 points and outscored their bench, 14-10, but it wasn't enough.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair that saw five ties and four lead changes. Brandeis raced out to a 12-5 lead after six minutes of action on a Chapin steal and lay-up. The edge was still five at 19-14 on back-door lay-up by Cincotta with 7:48 remaining, but the Judges went cold at that point, scoring just two more points on free throws as they missed their final nine shots and committing six turnovers. The Colonials ended the stanza on an 8-2 run, with all of the points in the final stretch coming at the free-throw line. Two Moffo freebies with 51 seconds on the clock gave Western Connecticut the 22-21 halftime lead despite shooting just 4-for-20 from the field, thanks to 12-of-15 from the line, doubling the Judges' output.
Brandeis hit the first two buckets of the second half, a lay-up by Orlando and a Cincotta trifecta, to go ahead, 26-22. The Colonials answered with another hot stretch, however, scoring 13 of the game's next 14 points. They hit 3-pointers on three of their next four possessions, one each from Spera, Moffo and senior Alyssa McGhee (Hartford, Conn./Bulkeley) and took a 35-27 lead on two Spera free throws. A traditional three-point play by Cincotta halted the momentum briefly, but Lee countered from beyond the arc, and senior guard Colleen Smith (Lebanon, Conn./Windham) answered with her only hoop that gave the visitors their largest lead, 40-30, with 13:09 left.
The Judges turned on the defensive clamps at that point, allowing just three field goals the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Brandeis connected on eight of their last 13 shots, including a stretch of seven out of nine. They tied the game at 41-41 on a Cincotta lay-up with 9:05 left. WCSU senior Stacey Roberts (Windham, Conn./Windham) answered with a trifecta, but jumpers from Orlando and Cincotta gave Brandeis the lead back for good. The Judges pulled away from the line, hitting their last 12 free throws to emerge with the 13-point decision.