The women’s basketball team advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 this past weekend after topping St. Lawrence University on Friday night and SUNY Cortland on Saturday. The ‘Jackets (22-5) are heading to Scranton, Pa., where they will face the No. 1 ranked team in the nation, Bowdoin College.
Prior to the start of the tournament, several members of the team were selected for All-University Athletic Association honors. Senior forward Danielle Muller was recognized as one of the best players in the conference, as she was named a UAA First-Team member.
Senior point guard Emily Bango and sophomore forward Julie Marriott were named to the UAA Second-Team. All three players looked to translate their individual accomplishments in the regular season into overall team success going into the postseason.
On Friday, the women beat St. Lawrence, 65-57, thanks in large part to the sharp shooting of Muller. The senior scored 17 points on 6 of 11 shooting. The Yellowjackets had a very balanced scoring attack, as seven players had at least seven points.
The ‘Jackets came out firing as they hit the first three shots of the game and jumped to an early 8-0 lead. After calling a timeout, the Saints countered with a 13-2 run of their own to put them up 13-10 midway through the first half.
Sophomore Johanna McNelis hit two jumpers, one of which was a three, to give the lead back to UR for the rest of the first half. The ‘Jackets headed into halftime with a 33-28 advantage.
The second half featured a lot of heavy ball pressure from the Saints as they tried to regain the lead from the ‘Jackets. They cut the lead down to one twice during the game, but UR’s stifling defense was resilient, and the women never trailed the rest of the way.
The ‘Jackets’ defense held the Saints to just 30 percent shooting after halftime, and they took better care of the ball, turning it over only 10 times as opposed to 17 turnovers in the first half.
“I know we had some turnovers here and there, but I think the key is how you turn around from that. We turned that into a positive by doing other things well,” sophomore forward Alex Porter said. “Every single person brought something to the table, everyone contributed, and those little things are really key for us.”
Porter had 10 points and 9 rebounds, and senior forward Emily Lyons turned in a nice performance off the bench, going for seven points and six rebounds in 13 minutes of play.
The team shot well overall – 56 percent from the field – scoring easily in transition as a result of the full court pressure St. Lawrence used in hopes of forcing turnovers.
The win set up a match-up on Saturday night between the Yellowjackets and host SUNY Cortland in the second round of the Tournament. Cortland topped Medaille College to advance the night before.
Heading into the game, Cortland had a 40 game home winning streak dating back several seasons. The streak came to an end, however, in what turned out to be a lopsided contest with the ‘Jackets coming out on top, 68-51.
If the ‘Jackets learned anything from Friday night, it was that great defense and limiting their own mistakes win games.
They did both, holding the Red Dragons to 36 percent shooting while committing only seven turnovers as opposed to 27 the night before.
The UR frontcourt trio of Muller, Porter and Marriott absolutely killed the Red Dragons, as they accounted for two-thirds of the Yellowjackets’ offense. Marriott led the team with 17 points, Muller had 16 and Porter chipped in 11.
Porter also had 12 rebounds to give her a double-double for the night. Bango dished out eight assists and had only one turnover.
The game was close for the first 10 minutes, but the ‘Jackets went on a 21-7 run after that, to go into halftime up 14 points, 32-18.
The lead grew to as much as 21 early in the second half until Cortland made a comeback to cut the lead down to six points with 11 minutes left in the game. But that was as close as they got, as the ‘Jackets extended the lead en route to a 17 point victory.
After shooting the ball only four times on Friday night, Marriott was very aggressive against the Red Dragons, shooting the ball 17 times and going to the free throw line eight times.
But, like always, it was a total team effort, as the team got contributions from everybody – especially on defense – in order to get the win.
“We really focused on playing team defense and trusting each other, and I really think that’s where our good teamwork comes in hand,” Bango said. “My teammates were running the floor well, getting open, and they were pressuring their players enough where I could help and get into the passing lanes. It was definitely a team effort all around.”
The Yellowjackets are now headed to Scranton, where they will face the best team in the country, Bowdoin College (28-1). UR is in the toughest bracket of the tournament – the East Region – with No. 1 ranked Bowdoin and host No. 3 Scranton (27-2) also advancing to the Sweet 16.
There are several familiarities, as two of UR’s assistant coaches are Bowdoin alumni. Also, the ‘Jackets could potentially have a rematch with the team they lost to in the tournament last year if they face Scranton in the Elite Eight.
Tip-off is set for Friday night at 5 p.m. The ‘Jackets are just two games away from reaching the Final Four – that, too, is very familiar territory for the team – and they’re hungry to get back.
Brackney is a member of the class of 2007.