“Welcome to the playoffs,” echoed through the halls of the Louis Alexander Palestra, as the Yellowjackets loudly welcomed SUNY Cortland and Medaille College this past weekend and cruised through the first two rounds of the NCAA Division III tournament. With smashing victories of 83-65 and 57-44, respectively, the Yellowjackets stomped through the first two games and solidified their place in the Sweet 16.

The game against Cortland transformed from a tight one to a blowout. Leading by only one point with 12:28 left in the first half, the Yellowjackets raked out a 9-0 run over the next four and a half minutes.

A three from Graham, along with lay-ups by forward and freshman Marlena Fisher and guard and junior Emily Bango helped the Yellowjackets close out the half with a 12-point advantage, 43-31.

The second half opened up with a lay-up by forward and freshman Alex Porter, which sparked a 6-0 run to open the half, pushing the lead to 20. The Yellowjackets owned the paint, outscoring Cortland 42-12 and shutting out the Red Dragons on the fast break.

The lead reached its peak after a lay-up by center and sophomore Jessica Waddell, pushing it to 28. The closest the Red Dragons ever got was within 16 with 1:28 left in the game.

Graham led UR with a game high 15 points, while Porter and Waddell chipped in 11 apiece for the Yellowjackets.

UR only trailed for 31 seconds in the first half until a three pointer by Graham gave the Yellowjackets a 3-2 lead which they never looked back from.

Records, threes and turnovers were the theme of game two on Saturday as the Yellowjackets took on the Mavericks of Medaille College in round two of the NCAA Division III Basketball tournament.

UR opened up the game with a 7-0 run lead by Graham, who scored a career high 27 points. Her nine three-pointers in the game broke the Palestra record, the school record, and the NCAA single-game record.

“Jessie Graham worked really hard to get open, and her shots were just falling,” Bango said. “It’s great for her to play this well in her final home game here in Rochester.”

UR built up a 13-point lead less than six minutes into the first half on their way to a victory. With a flurry of subs by head coach Pete Lonergan in the first half, the Mavericks were never able to find the right combo to answer the Yellowjacket barrage.

Scoring 12 of her 27 points in the first half, Graham led the Yellowjackets into the break with a 34-16 lead.

UR were able to capitalize on the poor handling and passing of the Mavericks, scoring 25 points off of 30 Medaille turnovers.

Even though the Mavericks were able to hold the Yellowjackets to only 18.4 percent shooting in the second half, the Yellowjackets never trailed in the game and only came within 12 with 16:21 left in the game.

“We knew that Medaille was a young team, so we focused on that in practice,” Bango said. “We worked hard on our team defense.”

Along with Graham’s 27, Porter chipped in an additional 12 as the Yellowjackets emerged victorious once again.

The Yellowjackets next play this Friday at 7 p.m. as they take on the 28-1 University of Scranton Royals at Scranton in the NCAA Division III Tournament. The Royals have won their last 26 games in a row and are the second ranked team in the country. This is the third Sweet 16 appearance for the Yellowjackets in the last four years.

Bango, along the rest of the team, knows that focus is the key to success this weekend.

“This Friday we are just focusing on Scranton,” she said. “They are a good offensive rebounding team, so we are working on boxing out. We want to limit them to one-shot possessions. We are all very excited for this weekend.”

Wang can be reached at bwang@campustimes.org

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