March 5, 2010

Courtesy Babson Athletics

WATERVILLE, Maine - Sophomore forward Nicki Wurdeman (Rowley, Mass.) scored a career-high 29 points on 12-of-13 shooting to lead the Babson College women's basketball team to a 76-56 victory over Emmanuel College in the first round of the 2010 NCAA Division III Championship Tournament at Colby College's Wadsworth Gymnasium on Friday night. With their 18th straight victory, the Beavers improved to 26-3 - tying the program record for wins in a season - and advanced to Saturday's second round where they will meet either Husson College or the host Mules at 7 p.m.

Wurdeman led all players with 29 points - surpassing her previous career-high of 27 set last season. The NEWMAC Player of the Year shot 12-for-13 from the field, including makes on her first 10 attempts, while also grabbing five rebounds. First-year Sarah Collins (Weymouth, Mass.) added 13 points, nine boards, and four blocked shots while shooting 5-for-6 from the floor, and sophomore Kathleen King (Framingham, Mass.) tossed in 10 points to go with seven rebounds, four assists, and two blocked shots while shooting 5-for-8 from the field. First-year Jess Aruda (Hanover, Mass.) and sophomore Michelle Kenel (Rockaway Beach, N.J.) each dished out four assists as well for the Beavers, who had 27 assists on 32 shots in the contest while shooting a spectacular 61.5 percent (32-52) from the floor.

Emmanuel (22-6) was led by junior Kristin LeBel (Tolland, Conn.), who scored 14 points and recorded four steals, and junior Casey Shevlin (Medford, N.Y.), who added 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting while also collecting four boards and four steals. Senior Abby Brenkach (Germantown, N.Y.) chipped in with eight points and five rebounds for the Saints, who were dealt a huge blow when senior guard Iman Davis (Toms River, N.J.) went down with an injury less than three minutes into the game and did not return.

While they fell behind quickly in a first-round loss to Amherst in last year's tournament, the Beavers were ready for this year's appearance, turning in their best half of basketball this season against Emmanuel. Babson opened the game with a 19-9 run behind nine early points from Wurdeman and later increased that advantage to 32-13 after a Collins jumper with 7:17 left in the period. The Saints cut it back to 17 after a pair of free throws by first-year Fiona O'Dwyer (Stamford, Conn.) with 6:24 left, but the Beavers were relentless, scoring six straight points and 12 of the next 14 to push its advantage to 44-19. When the period finally ended, Babson held a commanding 52-23 advantage - marking the team's highest scoring half of the season. Wurdeman was unstoppable in the opening stanza, scoring 17 points on 8-of-8 shooting in 16 minutes of play.

Emmanuel regrouped at the break and came out running in the second half, getting two free throws and a fast-break lay-up by Brenkach to cut its deficit to 25 at 52-27 just one minute into the period. The Saints later got to within 23 on two occasions, including a 56-33 deficit with 16:00 to go, but Wurdeman scored 12 straight points during a 12-4  Beavers run that made it 68-37 with 10:37 remaining. Emmanuel never got closer than 20 the rest of the way as Babson coasted to the impressive 76-56 victory.

ADDITIONAL NOTES: With the win, Babson is now 3-4 all-time in NCAA Tournament competition. Both of the Beavers' previous victories came against Western Connecticut State University in 1993 and 1994... With her 29-point performance, Wurdeman moved into 15th place on Babson's all-time scoring list. Just a sophomore, she now has 885 career points. Also a sophomore, King is 20th on the Beavers' all-time scoring list with 813 points... When they face either Colby or Husson on Saturday, Babson will have a chance to advance to the sectional semifinals (third round) of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. The Beavers failed to advance beyond the second round in their previous four tourney appearances.