BOSTON, Mass. (Courtesy Emmanuel sports information) – In a non-conference battle between two of the perennial New England powerhouses, the Emmanuel College women's basketball team defeated visiting Brandeis University, 55-43, on Tuesday night. Junior forward Fiona O'Dwyer (Stamford, Conn.) paced the Saints with a game-high 26 points and 13 rebounds. With the win, the Saints improve to 3-1 on the season, while the Judges fall to 3-4 overall, suffering their first losing streak of the season.
The Saints played great defense in the early going, holding the Judges scoreless through the first five minutes of action. Back-to-back jumpers by O'Dwyer put Emmanuel up, 7-0, and forced a Brandeis timeout with 14:39 on the clock. A baseline bucket from Britni Mikulanecz (Portland, Me.) pushed EC into double figures, while the scoring drought continued for Brandeis. A single free throw by senior guard Kelly Ethier (Springfield, Mass./Minnechaug Regional) got the Judges on the scoreboard, trailing 10-1 with seven and a half minutes played in the half.
The Saints continued to stifle the Judges' offense and after opening the game with 0-17 shooting from the floor, Brandeis signaled for a full timeout, down 14-1, at the ten-minute mark. Out of the timeout, freshman guard Hannah Cain (Gloucester, Mass./Gloucester) drove the lane to give the Judges their first field goal of the night.
A three-ball from the top of the key by junior guard Laura Benvenuto (Wyckoff, N.J.) stretched the Emmanuel lead to 22-3 at the five-minute mark. Brandeis guard Diana Cincotta (Plymouth, Mass./W. Boylston) matched the trey at the opposite end and then followed with another trifecta on the Judges' next possession, as Brandeis trailed 23-9 with 4:08 to play in the half.
After a few chippy minutes and a 6-2 run by the Judges to end the half, Emmanuel carried a double-figure lead into the locker room at halftime, up 25-15. The Saints, who committed 17 first-half turnovers, held Brandeis to just 15.2% (5-33) shooting in the opening frame, while out-rebounding the visitors, 31-18. O'Dwyer led the way for Emmanuel with 8 points and 7 rebounds in the first half, while Cincotta and Samantha Anderson (Johnsonville, N.Y./Hoosic Valley) netted 6 points apiece for Brandeis.
A quick 9-4 run to open the second half by the Judges, paced by two buckets by Shannon Hassan (Merrimack, N.H./Merrimack) and a trifecta and two free throws by Ethier got the Judges within five points at 29-24 less than five minutes in. But the Saints capitalized on a turn-around jumper in the paint by O'Dwyer and an and-one fastbreak hoop from Lena Negri (Arlington, Va.) to take a 37-24 lead with 12:44 to go. The Saints' full-court zone pressure challenged the Judges' backcourt, as Emmanuel quickly forced five Brandeis turnovers to open the half.
O'Dwyer, who grabbed her 10th rebound midway through the half, had already recorded a double-double with just over ten minutes to play. A mid-range jumper by Ethier cut the Judges' deficit to eight points, 45-37, with six minutes remaining. Emmanuel would use their pressure defense to hold Brandeis to just three points over the next four minutes, maintaining a 50-40 lead with 1:30 on the clock. O'Dwyer and Negri dropped key free throws down the stretch and the Saints held on for the 55-43 win.
O'Dwyer's game-high 26 points came on 11-21 shooting from the field and a perfect 4-4 performance from the line. Negri finished just shy of a double-double with 9 points and a season-high 13 boards. Sophomore center Victoria Johnson (Syracuse, N.Y.) hauled in 7 rebounds to add the Saints' total of 59 for the game. The Saints overpowered the Judges on the glass, outrebounding them, 59-44.
Both teams struggled from the line, with the Saints shooting 50% (11-22) and the Judges shooting 45% (9-20). Brandeis finished the night with a 23.1% (15-65) field goal shooting performance. Shannon Hassan (Merrimack, N.H./Merrimack) boosted Brandeis' percentage from the floor by knocking down 5-of-6 from the field. Hassan led the Judges with 14 points and 8 rebounds, while Ethier added 10 points and Anderson finished with 12 rebounds.
Brandeis returns home on Saturday afternoon to take on Daniel Webster College at 1 p.m.