The Case Western Reserve University women's basketball team picked up its seventh-straight victory on Sunday afternoon at Horsburgh Gymnasium, remaining undefeated in University Athletic Association play with a 67-64 win over Brandeis University.
The Spartans improved to 11-3 overall with the triumph, and to 3-0 in UAA games. It marks just the third time since CWRU began UAA play in 1987-88 that the team has won its first three-conference games, and the first time since the 2010-11 campaign. Case Western Reserve sits tied atop the UAA standings with Washington University (Mo.), which also improved to 3-0 in conference games on Sunday with a win over Rochester.
The Spartans' seven-game winning streak matches a stretch during the 2003-04 campaign for the second-longest in program history, and is just two games shy of a program-record nine-game winning streak during the 2009-10 campaign.
Brandeis fell to 6-7 overall with the loss, including a 2-1 mark in the UAA.
Senior guard/ forward Hillary Hellmann led all scorers on Sunday with 23 points, shooting nine-of-26 overall and four-of-13 on three-point attempts, while adding nine rebounds and three assists. After collecting a career-best 15 rebounds against NYU on Friday night, graduate student forward Kara Hageman tallied 14 boards against Brandeis to go along with 14 points, three blocks, and a pair of assists. It was the second-straight double-double for Hageman, her fifth overall this season, and the 15th of her career.
Junior guard Kendall McConico finished the day with seven points and six rebounds for the Spartans, and junior guard Alicia Marie Gonzales totaled five points, three rebounds and a career-high matching seven assists.
The Spartans opened the game on a tear, going on a 20-2 run to take a 20-4 lead with 2:07 remaining in the first quarter. After allowing the Judges to score the opening basket of the game, the Spartans' defense held Brandeis without another field goal for the remainder of the quarter, a stretch of nine minutes and 16 seconds that lasted into the second period. Meanwhile, Hellmann scored eight points in the opening period, and CWRU connected on four three-pointers during the frame, building its lead to as many as 16 points after a pair of free throws by freshman guard Alyssa Hyland, closing out the quarter with a 20-10 lead over the Judges.
Hellmann connected on her third three of the game early in the second quarter to put CWRU ahead 23-12 with 9:09 to play in the half, but the Judges responded with a 13-0 run over the next four minutes and 10 seconds to take the lead, 25-23. The rest of the quarter would be a back-and-forth affair with five ties and two lead changes, and a layup by Brandeis' Hannah Nicholson at the buzzer evened the score at 34-34 going into halftime.
The teams continued to exchange leads in the third period, with a three by Hellmann with 7:34 to play in the third putting the Spartans ahead 41-37, before a run by the Judges helped them build a four-point lead of their own, 50-46, with 1:30 to go in the frame. However, CWRU ended the third with five-straight points, including a buzzer-beating jumper by freshman guard Abbey Lawrence, to take a 51-50 lead into the fourth.
Brandeis regained a lead early in the fourth quarter, but the Spartans kept it at a one-possession game, and eventually went ahead 56-55 on a layup by McConico off an offensive rebound with 5:36 to play. The Judges briefly took the lead back on a three, but a free throw by sophomore forward Emma Cain and another jumper by Lawrence put CWRU ahead again, 59-58, with 4:20 remaining in the game. The Spartans would never trail again in the game, building a six-point lead, 65-59, with 1:51 to go.
Brandeis made one last run, cutting the Spartans' lead to a point, 65-64, with 1:09 remaining, but Gonzales converted a pair of free throws with 14 seconds remaining, and the Judges missed two late three point tries to even the score, giving CWRU the victory.
CWRU finished the game shooting 34.3% overall (24-of-70) and committed just five turnovers, while scoring 17 points off 13 turnovers by the Judges. The Spartans also ended the contest with a 20-11 edge in second-chance points.
Brandeis was paced offensively by Lauren Rubenstein, who came off the bench to score 17 points.
The Spartans will be in action next weekend, kicking off a stretch of four-straight conference road contests against Emory University on Friday, January 18th at 6:00 p.m. and the University of Rochester on Sunday, January 20th at 2:00 p.m.