March 13, 2009

Courtesy of Brandeis Athletics

AHMHERST, Mass. - All five starters scored in double figures tonight as the Brandeis University women’s basketball team advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division III tournament with an 82-70 victory over Muhlenberg College in the Sweet 16.

Brandeis (20-7) reached the 20-win plateau for the fifth time in the last six seasons thanks to a balanced attack. Junior guard Jessica Chapin (Mendon, N.Y./Honeoye Falls-Lima) led the way for the 16th time this season with 17 points on 5-of-12 shooting with a 3-pointer and 6-of-7 from the line. Senior forward Cassidy Dadaos (Healdsburg, Calif./Healdsburg) matched her career-high with 14 points, 10 of which came in the first half, while also leading the team with seven rebounds. Classmate Lauren Orlando (Peabody, Mass./Peabody) had 13 points and six boards. Sophomore guard Diana Cincotta (W. Boylston, Mass./W. Boylston) added 12 points and a team-high three assists, while rookie Morgan Kendrew (Cotuit, Mass./Barnstable) scored nine of her 11 points in the second half.

Brandeis shot 50.9% from the field for the game (29-57) and scored 24 points more than Muhlenberg was allowing for the season. They also held the Mules to just 38.3% from the field (23-60), including 28.6% (8-28) in the first half. The Judges also used a 41-30 rebounding advantage to outscore Muhlenberg, 13-6, in second-chance points, while the Brandeis forwards produced a 34-12 edge in points in the paint.

Muhlenberg (26-4) ended its most successful season despite a fantastic performance from senior guard Kelly McKeon. McKeon led all players in points (25), rebounds (11) and assists (5). She shot 8-of-16 from the field with two 3-pointers, and was a perfect 7-for-7 from the line. McKeon produced 21 of her 25 points in the second half. Also reaching double figures for the Mules was rookie Alexandra Chili, who finished with 15 points, but the nation’s second-ranked 3-point shooter, averaging 3.2 per game, hit just 2-of-7 from beyond the arc to get there. Chili scored nearly half her points from the free throw line, where she, too, was 7-for-7. Senior Lauren Boyle had 11 points and a game-high three steals. The Mules protected the ball, winning the turnover battle, 12-8, but were only able to get a 14-9 scoring advantage out of the miscues.

After a closely-fought first five minutes of the contest, the game’s key run came over the next eight. Trailing, 10-9, with 15:32 on the clock, the Judges scored the game’s next 20 points, forcing the Mules to miss 10 straight shots and commit three turnovers in that span. Chapin and Dadaos each had three buckets in the key run, but six different Judges contributed to the run that saw the Judges take a 29-10 lead with 7:25 left before intermission. Brandeis was up, 36-16, with 4:32 left, when Chapin picked up her third foul, and Muhlenberg responded with the last eight points of the stanza. Dadaos led all players with 10 first-half points, while Chapin had nine. Chili paced the Mules with six points in the first.

The early second half was a game of runs, as Brandeis went ahead by as many as 18 and Muhlenberg as close as 11. Following a jumper by the Judges’ Kelly Ethier (Springfield, Mass./Minnechaug Reg.) that gave the Judges a 59-45 lead with 9:12 left, the Mules went on a 10-3 run to get within seven points on a McKeon jumper. Brandeis responded, as Cincotta hit a driving lay-up and Chapin converted a traditional three-point play, pushing the lead back to 12. The Judges were able to keep Muhlenberg at bay the rest of the way, as they never got closer than nine despite McKeon’s best efforts.

Brandeis will play the winner of tonight’s second game between host Amherst and NYU in the Elite Eight tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. The Lord Jeffs lead NYU, 32-22, at the half. NYU, along with sectional hosts Rochester and Washington University will try to put four University Athletic Association teams in the Elite Eight.