SCRANTON, Pa. -- Senior guard Cyndi Matsuoka posted a season-high 31 points, leading Vassar to a thrilling 76-75 victory in the NCAA tournament first round on Friday evening in play from the John Long Center.
"I'm really proud of this group and of how this team played today," head coach Candice Brown said. "We really persevered and it feels great to get this win for this group of seniors and for the entire team."
Matsuoka was 11 of 17 from the floor, making four of the seven triples she took. She was amazing in the second half for the Brewers, as she went 7 of 9 for 19 points as the Brewers came from behind for the win. Vassar will advance to play Saturday at 5 p.m. ET against the winner of Scranton and Bridgewater State.
The Epps (20-6) scored eight of the game's first 10 points, six coming on a pair of 3-pointers from freshman Devon Caveney. The Brewers (23-5) pulled to within three at 14-11 after a triple from Caitlin Darkly, but Williams used the strength of an 11-3 spurt to take an 11-point edge at 25-14 with 11:06 to play in the opening period.
WC continued to hold onto its 11-point lead until 7:05 left in the half when the Brewers made a run of their own. Vassar manufactured a 12-2 stretch to pull to within one after a pair of freebies from Drakeley. Following a jumper from Eph sophomore Oge Uwanaka, Matsuoka knotted the contest at 34 with her 69th trey of the year.
The Ephs netted four unanswered points, but Vassar closed with the final three scores of the period to make the tally 38-37 at the break. Matsuoka scored a team-high 12 points in the opening period for VC, while Caveney and Ellen Cook each finished with 12 tallies in the first half for Williams. Junior Allyson Pemberton and Rose Serafini also had six for VC, which shot 43.8 percent (14-32) from the floor in the first stanza.
The second half started with a bang for the Brewers, as they charged out to a six-point lead with 16:21 left after two free throws from senior Hannah Senftleber. Vassar continued to hold its lead until 6:01 left in the game when Lauren McCall nailed a triple for the Ephs to give it a 64-61 lead. Not to be outdone, Matsuoka answered with another 3 to tie the game, as the contest witnessed three tie games during the next 2:09.
In the waning moments, Vassar went instead went to another one of its All-Liberty League performers in sophomore guard Drakeley. She netted the last six points for VC, all on jumpers, to give the Brewers a 76-73 lead with 1:23 left. Williams' Oge Uwanaka made two from the charity stripe to make the game 76-75, and Drakeley missed her shot on the ensuing possession. Caveney nearly gave Williams the lead with a 3, but it rimmed out and Matsuoka grabbed the board. Trying to run the clock out, Vassar turned the ball over and gave the Ephs one last chance with five seconds to go. Ellen Cook raced forward but her 3 as the buzzer sounded missed everything, giving the Brewers their historic win.
Vassar put four players in double figures, as Senftleber, Drakeley and Pemberton all supplemented Matsuoka's total. Senftleber just missed a double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds, while Drakeley chalked up another double-double with 11 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. Pemberton added 10 points on 4 of 6 shooting. The Brewers moved to 15-0 this season when shooting better than 40 percent, making 23 of 62 (45.2 percent) from the floor. VC also made 15 of the 18 shots from the free-throw line.
Williams got a great game from Cook, who finished with 22 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and four steals. Caveney added 15 points, Jane Thompson came off the bench to score 10 points, and McCall had seven points and eight rebounds. Uwanaka finished with eight points and a game-best 13 rebounds. The Ephs shot 45.3 percent (29-for-64) from the field, and barely won the rebounding battle 36-35.