Brandeis women rally from 20 down to upset Rochester, 67-65

Brandeis women rally from 20 down to upset Rochester, 67-65

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - The Brandeis women's basketball team trailed by as many as 20 points to the host University of Rochester with just under 15 minutes left in regulation, but the combination of junior Amber Strodthoff (DePere, Wisc./DePere) and senior Jessica Chapin (Mendon, N.Y./Honeoye Falls-Lima) turned in fantastic second halves and the Judge defense stepped up, holding the Yellowjackets without a field goal for 14 minutes, as the Judges rallied for a 67-65 University Athletic Association (UAA) victory at the Palestra tonight. The win improves Brandeis to 14-8, 7-5 in the UAA, while Rochester falls to 17-6, 7-5, as the squads are tied for third in the conference.

The Judges fell behind 10-2 early in the contest and were behind by 18, 43-25, at the break. Rochester's Jodie Luther (Gibsonia, Pa./Hampton) had 15 first-half points, while Brandeis sophomore Morgan Kendrew (Cotuit, Mass./Barnstable) kept the Judges within sight of the Yellowjackets with 12 points, as she hit 5-of-6 from the floor and two free throws. UR connected on 49 percent overall in the first (17-35), including 6-of-12 from beyond the arc. The hosts also had 14 assists and six turnovers, compared to just five helpers and 10 miscues by the Judges.

Brandeis looked to get back in the game in the early parts of the second half, as senior Kasey Gieschen (Boonton Township, N.J./Mountain Lakes) connected on her first career 3-pointer to start the stanza and then hit a free throw to get the visitors within 14, 43-29. The ‘Jackets responded with back-to-back 3-pointers by junior Melissa Alwardt (Greece, N.Y./Greece Athena), taking their largest lead of the game, 49-29, with 18:01 left in the contest.

On the Judges' next possession, Gieschen got to the line again, and hit one of two, cutting the lead to 49-30. At that point, Chapin entered the game for the first time, and made an immediate impact with a 3-pointer on her first shot. UR answered with a foul shot and a trifecta by Jessica Mastronardi (Kendall Park, N.J./So. Brunswick) to go back ahead, 53-33, with 14:41 remaining.

At that point, the Brandeis defense stiffened, holding Rochester without a field goal for more than 14 minutes until 13 seconds remained in the contest. The Judges were able to keep the hosts out of the paint, forcing UR to take just six of their 19 shots from inside the arc in the second half. Meanwhile, on the offensive end, Brandeis was connecting on 8-of-11 over a 10-minute span that was part of a 24-4 run. Strodhoff had nine points in the stretch, including her second 3-pointer of the season that got the deficit down to three points at 53-50,while her put-back at the 6:03 mark tied the game for the first time since the opening tap.

The Yellowjackets scored the game's next two points from the free-throw line, but a Kendrew trifecta with 5:23 gave the Judges their first lead of the contest, 57-56. Alwardt answered with a pair of free throws to reclaim the lead at the 5:02 mark, but the teams went two minutes without scoring before a pair of Strodthoff foul shots gave the Judges the 59-58 lead at the 3:04 mark. Kate Agan (Elmira, N.Y./Elmira Notre Dame) hit one of two for the Yellowjackets to knot the game, but Strodthoff answered again on a post-to-post feed from rookie Shannon Ingram (Floral Park, N.Y./Floral Park Memorial) with  1:52 on the clock.

The Judges' defense was intense on the next three Rochester possessions, forcing three turnovers, including a pair of shot-clock violations before junior Diana Cincotta (Plymouth, Mass./W. Boylston) hit a pair of free throws with 25 seconds left to make it a two-possession game, 62-59, with 25 seconds left on the clock. Alwardt answered from the charity stripe, but Kendrew and Cincotta also connected for two from the line before Alwardt's buzzer beater made the final two-point margin.

Kendrew ended up with a game-high 17 points thanks to her big half, while Strodhoff had 13 of her 15 points in the second half, when she connected on 5-of-7 overall with the big trifecta and two free throws. Sophomore Shannon Hassan (Merrimack, N.H./Merrimack) had 10 points to tie a career-high, six coming in the second half. Chapin, who played just 18 second-half minutes, finished with nine points, all coming during the comeback. Hassan also had a team-high five rebounds, three on the offensive glass. The Judges turned the tide in the backcourt in the second half, as they had seven assists and just four turnovers, while forcing 11 UR miscues and allowing just four assists. After hitting just one of their five 3-pointers in the first, they connected on 5-of-7 from downtown in the second, while holding Rochester to just 3-of-13 from beyond the arc after the intermission. Brandeis earned its first season-sweep of UR since 2005-06.

Three Rochester players scored in double figures, as Alwardt and Luther had 15 each. Twelve of Alwardt's points came in the second half, while Luther was kept off the board after the intermission. Mastronardi also finished with 10 points. Alwardt also had a game-high five assists. The ‘Jackets owned a 34-28 rebounding margin, with Agan and Amy Woods (Bala Cynwyd, Pa./Lower Merion) each corralling six boards. The loss was Rochester's first at home after winning their first 10 of the season in the Palestra.

The Judges will try to avenge one of their earlier UAA losses on Sunday afternoon at Emory University at 2 p.m.