Casanueva, women's basketball pushes #2 Tufts before dropping 81-77 decision

Camila Casanueva '21 (Photo by
Camila Casanueva '21 (Photo by

WALTHAM, Mass. – Brandeis University junior guard Camila Casanueva (Santa Barbara, Calif./Dos Pueblos) scored a game-high 32 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter alone, but the visiting Tufts University women's basketball team rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit to defeat the Judges, 81-77, in a battle of unbeaten Division III teams. With the loss, the Judges fall to 3-1, while the Jumbos, ranked #2 in the nation by and the WBCA, improves to 4-0.

The game featured 10 ties and a remarkable 21 lead changes. Brandeis led after the first quarter, 23-20, by shooting 50 percent from the field (8-16) and 67 percent from 3-point range (4-6). Casanueva had nine points in the first period. The Jumbos looked to wrest control back by scoring the first four points and seven of the first nine in the second quarter to take a 28-25 lead on two foul shots by senior Cailin Harrington. The visitors still led, 38-37, with 2:50 left before the half, but Brandeis closed strong, outscoring Tufts 11-2 the rest of the way to take their largest lead of the game, 48-40, into the locker room. Casanueva added eight more points in the second to finish with 17 in the first half, while senior Hannah Nicholson (Sunderland, Vt./Burr and Burton Academy) added six points and three rebounds to finish with eight and five for the stanza. Sophomore Sofia Rosa led Tufts with 11 points off the bench in the first half.

The Jumbos came out strong in the second half, scoring the first 10 points to reclaim their lead, 50-48, on a steal and layup by senior Erica DeCandido with 6:40 left in the third quarter. The game was scoreless for the next four possessions, but Brandeis got back on the board when junior Courtney Thrun (Regina, Sask./Wilbraham and Monson Academy) hit a second-chance 3-pointer to put the Judges back ahead, 51-50. This sparked a 7-0 run that gave Brandeis a five-point lead with 3:14 remaining, but Tufts tied it again on a DeCandido trifecta with just over a minute to go. Judge rookie Francesca Marchese (Staten Island, N.Y./Staten Island Academy) answered from long distance, and though the Jumbos hit a put-back on their next possession, Brandeis took a 58-57 lead after three periods.

After being held scoreless in the third quarter, Casanueva came alive in the fourth. She opened the stanza with a three-point play to give the Judges a 4-point lead at 61-57. DeCandida answered with a lay-up, followed by a Molly Ryan trifecta that put Tufts ahead, 62-61, with 8:51 remaining. The game see-sawed from there, with the lead trading hands five times over the next four minutes.

The game was tied at 67-all with 4:49 to go after Rosa hit 1-of-2 from the line. After the Judges missed on their next possession, the Jumbos grabbed two offensive rebounds on their next chance, going up 70-67 on a 3-pointer by senior Lilly Paro. Brandeis missed again, but came up with a steal, and Casanueva hit a fast-break lay-up to get within 70-69 with 2:40 to go. At that point, the Brandeis bench was assessed a technical foul, and Harrington hit both shots to reestablish the three-point lead. The Jumbos were unable to convert on the ensuing possession, and Casanueva hit a 3-pointer from the left elbow to knot the game at 72.

Tufts thought they had the answer when Paro dialed long distance from straight away with 1:40 remaining, but Casanueva answered with an improbable 25-footer after the Judges were scrambling to recover a loose ball, tying the game at 75-75 with 1:04 remaining.

On the next Tufts possession, the Jumbos missed their shot but Harrington grabbed a rebound and was fouled, earning two free throws. She hit both and put the visitors ahead for good, 77-75. Casanueva got a decent look on the ensuing possession, but couldn't get it to fall, forcing the Judges to foul when Tufts grabbed the rebound. Emily Briggs hit both and iced the game, with the Judges hitting a field goal and two more Jumbo foul shots to close out the scoring.

Casanueva finished with 32 points, a new career-high, eclipsing the 30 she scored last year against Salem State. She hit 11-for-20 overall, 6-for-8 from downtown, and 4-for-4 from the line. She accounted for 15 of the team's 19 points in the fourth quarter, when she was 5-for-8 overall, 2-for-3 from deep and 3-for-3 from the line. She also pulled down two rebounds and had two assists. Nicholson was the only other Brandeis player in double digits in scoring, with 10 points and five rebounds. Thrun added seven points and a team-high seven rebounds off the bench. Nicholson and rookie Emma Reavis (Miami, Okla./Deerfield Academy) tied for team-high honors with three assists each.

Tufts had a more balanced attack with four players scoring in double figures. DeCanidido led the Jumbos with 19 points, nine coming in the third period. Harrington added 15 points, including 10-for-10 from the line – as many as the entire Brandeis team combined. Rosa finished with a double-double, scoring 14 points and grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds, including six on the offensive glass. Ryan also had 14 points, and led all players with five assists.

Brandeis hit 11 3-pointers to seven for Tufts, while the Jumbos had an 18-10 edge in scoring from the line. The Jumbos also had a 37-30 rebounding edge, which they established in the fourth quarter, when they owned a 12-2 margin.

Brandeis returns to action on Tuesday evening at 6 p.m. when they take on Salem State in Auerbach Arena. Tufts travels to Skidmore for a 5 p.m. tip the same night.