New York University built a huge first-half lead and held off a second-half rally to take down 12th-ranked Rochester 82-69 on Friday in front of a season-high 1,217 spectators at the Coles Sports Center in Manhattan.
The Violets (9-8, 3-3) played lockdown defense all of the first period and got their offense going midway through the half, turning a four-point advantage into a 24-point halftime lead. NYU then staved off the Yellowjackets (13-4, 3-3) in the second half, letting them get no closer than nine to earn a victory against the team with the second-highest national ranking in the University Athletic Association (UAA).
“We executed our defensive game plan very well,” said head coach Stefano Trompeo, whose squad held Rochester to just eight field goals on 25 attempts in the first half. “On offense, we spread the court better. We tried to find the open man and we made a ton of shots.”
Maggie Ely and Tana Bertino, in particular, made a ton of shots. Ely netted 20 points, including shooting 10-for-12 from the free-throw line, for her fourth 20-point game in the last five contests. Bertino added a career-high 18 points, going 4-for-6 from beyond the arc and 6-for-9 from the field.
“Tana is a great shooter,” noted Trompeo. “Tonight we found her at the right time. When a great shooter hits her first shot, the hoop starts looking as big as the ocean.”
Ely and Bertino combined for 17 of NYU’s first 29 points, helping the team build a 29-14 lead late in the first. After Amy Woods ended the Violets’ 10-0 run with a layup, Bertino responded with a triple, sparking a 17-6 spurt to end the half and send NYU into the break with a massive 46-22 edge.
Ely and Bertino finished with 27 first-half points combined, five more than the Yellowjackets’ total.
But 12th-ranked Rochester, a Final Four team a season ago, came out strong in the second half, going on a quick 16-4 run to cut its deficit to 12, 50-38, with more than 13 minutes to play.
Melissa Alwardt, who poured in 25 second-half points for the Yellowjackets, drained a 3 to make it a 10-point game with 9:19 left, but Bertino responded with a 3 to put the lead back at 13. Alwardt eventually got Rochester as close as nine, but NYU went 14-for-14 from the free-throw line in the final 3 minutes to seal the win.
For the game, the Violets finished 35-for-39 from the charity stripe, including 22-for-23 in the second half. The 35 free throws made were the fourth-most in school history.
Bianca Storts and Chelsea Blake joined Ely and Bertino in double figures. Storts finished with 14 points, while Blake netted 12. Cara Bonito doled out a game-high five assists.
Alwardt led all scorers with 30 points. Kristyn Wright and Madline Korber had 10 points apiece, while Korber added eight rebounds.