ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Behind a career-high 24 points from junior Loren Wagner, Rochester (N.Y.) defeated Emmanuel (Mass.) 70-66 in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday in the Palestra.
“I don’t see myself as a prolific scorer, I’m typically more in the 8 to 10 point range” Wagner said.
Wagner’s career high scoring burst came on 7-for-8 shooting from the floor and 10 of 12 from the free throw line. She also added 14 rebounds and two assists.
The Yellowjackets (20-6) held their biggest lead of nine with 7:57 remaining in the game after an Amy Woods jumper in the paint, but Emmanuel (23-6) rattled off an 8-1 run to pull within two points with 5:46 to play.
That’s when Wagner took over, scoring 11 of the team’s last 13 points in the final five minutes to power Rochester into the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“We wanted to get the ball inside, everything starts with our play in the paint,” Rochester head coach Jim Scheible said. “Emmanuel is a really athletic and skilled team, they made us work hard for every point.”
With the score tied at 60, Rochester then went on a mini burst to build a five-point edge with 2:22 remaining. A Sarah Higgins layup and Fiona O’Dwyer 3-pointer on either side of a Rochester free throw then cut the deficit to just one with 1:17 to play. O’Dwyer led the Saints with a double-double of 21 points and 11 rebounds.
Wagner made a huge layup with just 27 seconds on the clock, putting the Yellowjackets back up by three. After Emmanuel’s Laura Benvenuto was fouled and made the first free throw, Wagner was there to clean up the glass on the second missed free throw and made two at the other end to seal the win.
It was a back-and-forth first half with each team trading runs with one another. The largest lead in the first session was Rochester by five at two different times. The first half featured five ties and seven lead changes. At the half, Rochester held a one-point lead 31-30.
Junior Danielle McNabb had a solid first 20 minutes, scoring 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting with three rebounds. Ally Zywicki chipped in seven points and three assists as well in the half. Emmanuel was led by Benvenuto, who had eight points while O’Dwyer had six points and six rebounds at the break.
Rochester bolted out in the second half with four quick points to tie the game-high lead, but the Saints answered back with a 10-2 run to grab a three-point lead, with six of those points coming on the fast break.
Rochester junior Paige Aleski hit a big 3-pointer to tie the game back up at 42 with 13:37 remaining. Wagner and Walker made layups right after to earn a four-point lead. With just more than 10 minutes left, Walker made a desperation 3-pointer from way beyond the 3-point line with the shot clock winding down. The 3-pointer gave Rochester a six-point lead, which ballooned to a game-high nine a minute and a half later.
“It’s the law of averages for me to make a shot like that,” Walker said after missing a couple of open scoring chances earlier in the game.
For the game, the Yellowjackets shot 43 percent and had 20 assists on 24 made baskets. Emmanuel made 38 percent of its shots and got outrebounded by Rochester 41-35. The Saints held the advantage with 15 second-chance points and 17 points off turnovers.
“If you ever told me we could lose a game with just nine turnovers, I’d never believe you” Saints head coach Andy Yosinoff said. “This was probably the best NCAA game I have ever been involved with.”
Rochester will play Williams on Saturday.