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Familiar territory but new playing field

By Hannah Vickers

Section: Sports

March 6, 2009

This week the Brandeis women’s basketball team received an at-large berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament for the fourth year in a row. While this would have been exciting enough, they were also selected for the first time to host the first round of play, with Western Connecticut State University, Mount St. Mary’s College, and Brockport State University all making their way to Waltham this weekend. Brandeis will face off against the Western Connecticut Colonials in round one on Friday night at 7 P.M. Western Connecticut finished the regular season with a record of 21-5, 12-2 in the Little East Conference (LEC), which put them in second in their conference.

At the conclusion of the regular season the Judges had a 17-7 overall record, went 7-7 in the UAA, and were also being ranked third in the Northeast Regional Rankings. Another interesting point in this years tournament is that no conference had more teams qualify than the UAA: Washington University (the conference champions), Rochester University, New York University, and Brandeis University. In addition all four UAA teams earned the right to host the first round.

Despite their seven losses this season, the difficult strength of schedule the Judges faced helped them qualify for the at-large berth. They also boast the second-highest opponent’s winning percentage in Division III. Brandeis also has a 6-5 record against NCAA qualifiers with non-conference victories over Babson, Bowdoin, Emmanuel, Tufts, and Widener, splitting the season against Rochester, and losing twice to both Wash U. and NYU.

The Judges are paced by Jessica Chapin ’10, who leads them in scoring (14.1 points per game, 3rd in the UAA), rebounding (6.7 rebounds per game, 6th in the UAA), assists (3.2 assists per game, 6th in the UAA), and steals (3.0 steals per game, 2nd in the UAA). These stats make her one of only three players in the UAA to be in the top 10 in all four categories. In addition Chapin was a second-team All-UAA selection last year. Lauren Orlando ’09 is the second highest scorer with 9.5 points per game. While these two players may stand out, the entire team is a force to be reckoned with. Brandeis topped the UAA in free-throw shooting (74 percent) and three-pointers per game (5.8).

Given how solid the Judges are shooting from the line, they will really have to push themselves in the tournament to get those easy points, something they failed to do in their most recent game against NYU. Another problem the team occasionally runs into is losing an early lead. The Judges have a tendency to jump out to an early lead just a few minutes into a game, and while they have been excellent on building that against numerous opponents, they have also lost their footing and haven’t been able to recover. The key will be getting into a comfortable rhythm and taking advantage of steal and rebound situations. At the same time these are problems any team can run into and, given Brandeis’ ability to explode right out of the gate, they have a great chance of taking that early lead and holding onto it for the rest of the game.

Western Connecticut is one of three LEC teams in the tournament, the others being Southern Maine and Eastern Connecticut. The Colonials are 3-4 against other teams in the NCAA this year after losing two games to Eastern Connecticut and going 1-2 against Southern Maine in their own conference, and dropping a game against Bowdoin but beating Widener in the Brandeis Tip-Off Tournament back on Nov. 22-23.

One of the biggest strengths of this team is their powerful defense and offense, as well as having seven different players with at least 10 starts this season and five who score on average between 7.8 to 9.5 points per game. One of the strongest players on the team is center Melissa Teel ’11 who averages 7.8 points per game, leads the team with 7.5 rebounds per game (the 4th best in the LEC), as well as a league-best 2.9 blocked shots per game, 13th best in the entire Divistion. In terms of scoring they are led by Stacey Roberts ’09 with 9.5 points per game. In addition to being ranked second in the league and in the top 20 in the country in field-goal percentage defense (33 percent), Western Connecticut also leads the LEC in assists (15.2 assists per game), blocked shots (5.9 blocks per game), and three-pointers per game (7.0). As a point of comparison, Brandeis averages 15.6 assists per game, 2.5 blocked shots, and 5.8 three-pointers per game. When Brandeis faces off against them this Friday they will need to keep in mind the power of this defense, especially given the difference in average blocked shots.

The first game on Friday will be at 5 P.M. between Brockport State University (19-9) and Mount St. Mary’s College (23-4). Tip off for the Judges vs. Colonials will be at 7 P.M. and the winners of the first-round games will meet Saturday night at 5 P.M. Best of luck girls!

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