Judges basketball teams start strong

Brandeis basketball teams are headed in the right direction as 2011 approaches. The men, despite a youthful roster tasked with replacing the winningest senior class in program history, wrapped up 2010 with an 8-0 record. The women, after a sluggish start, closed out the semester on a three-game winning streak to improve to 6-3.

With 12 new faces on the roster in 2010-11, the immediate future for the Brandeis men's basketball team looked uncertain. But coach Brian Meehan's returning starters, senior Christian Yemga (6.4 rebounds per game) and juniors Tyrone Hughes (6.4 assists per game) and Vytas Kriskus (16.4 points per game), don't seem interested in waiting for success to come to them. They have swiftly integrated the rookies, as guard Ben Bartoldus (6.8 points per game) and center Youri Dascy  (60 percent field goal shooting) have taken to their starting roles, while sharpshooter Derek Retos (11.1 ppg, 59.5 percent 3-point percentage) comes off the bench to add instant offense.

The Judges have had a pair of dramatic victories this season, keyed by Hughes. On November 23, the team defeated UMass Dartmouth when the 5-9 guard stole an inbounds pass with 6.1 seconds left and hit a pair of free throws to earn the 71-69 victory. One week later on November 30, Brandeis fell behind by 21 points in the first half, but rallied to force overtime against Clark University. A Retos 3-pointer to open the extra session gave them their first lead but again it was Hughes to the rescue. After missed free throw by the Cougars, Yemga rebounded the ball and fed Hughes, who went the length of the court in 5.9 seconds to hit a lay-up as the buzzer sounded for a 67-65 Brandeis victory.

The Judges are off until 5 p.m. Jan. 6 at Emerson College; their next home game is at 3 p.m. Jan. 8 when they host New York University in the 2010-11 University Athletic Association opener.

On the women's side, playing without 2009-10 first-team All-American Jessica Chapin '10, coach Carol Simon's team took time to come together. Junior guard Morgan Kendrew (14.1 points per game) has stepped in to fill in the scoring load, while senior forward Amber Strodthoff (8.9 ppg, 6.2 rebounds per game) has maintained her presence on the glass. Junior Kelly Ethier (6.2 ppg, 2.4 assists per game) and senior Mia DePalo (6.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg) have joined the starting lineup with success, while rookie Janelle Rodriguez (4.9 ppg, 58.3% 3-point percentage) has brought an injection of athleticism to the team.

Brandeis opened the season alternating wins and losses, with two of the three defeats coming at the hands of 2010 NCAA tournament squads Babson and Tufts by a combined six points. The Judges snapped out of their funk on Nov. 30 against Emmanuel College with a 72-67 victory. Ethier hit the game-winning lay-up on an offensive rebounds with 1:44 on the clock for the game-winning hoop, and had a steal and assist on a Rodriguez 3-pointer on the next possession for a key insurance bucket. Kendrew led Brandeis in scoring in their next two games with 17 and 16 points, respectively, in wins over Roger Williams and Eastern Nazarene in the team's next two wins. Against the Lions on December 6, she had 12 points in the first half, one more than the entire ENC roster.

The Judges next take the court at 1 p.m. on New Year's Eve against Husson University. They also open UAA play on Jan. 8 against NYU, opening a doubleheader at 1 p.m.

Categories: Athletics

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