January 14, 2012

BRANDON SCORES 36, ENGINEERS COMEBACK WIN

By Michael Wells
Sports Information Director
 

LOS ANGELES – When she scored 25 points in one half earlier this season that was remarkable. Then when she capped a string of 20-point performances with a buzzer beater on New Year's Eve she started to seem unstoppable.

But what Makenzie Brandon (Seattle) did Saturday night topped all of that.

The 5-foot-10 junior forward who's already been named the SCIAC Female Student-Athlete of the Week twice this season, scored a career-high 36 points, leading the Occidental College women's basketball team to a comeback win over Whittier College 73-67 in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference action on Saturday.

After a normal first half by her standards — nine points and two steals on 4 for 10 shooting — The SCIAC's leading scorer went off, scoring 27 points in the second period to help the Tigers (12-2, 4-0) overcome a six-point halftime deficit.

"Sometimes they all just happen to drop and sometime they don't," Brandon said. "It was just one of those nights where they all did."

Those nights are starting to become a trend for the two-time First Team All-SCIAC performer. Her offensive surge Saturday brought her scoring average up to 19.3 points per game and so far she's posted three games with double-digit points and rebounds. The only game she didn't have at least 10 points in was an 83-27 route over Caltech when she scored seven in 11 minutes played.

The 27-point onslaught after the break marks the fourth time she's engineered a comeback victory with 15 or more points in the second half.

"It's not the 'same old, same old' because they are some special performances that she's putting together," Occidental coach Heidi VanDerveer said. "They're even more special because you don't have to run things for her. She operates in the offense and creates opportunities by coming up with loose balls, steals and she gets out in transition."

She nearly scored 40 and probably should have if she was as good as she usually is from the free throw line. Brandon was just 10 for 19 from the charity stripe, an uncharacteristic night for the 79 percent free throw shooter.

Even she admitted she was a little surprised by her stat line when she saw the box score after the game.

"I was excited. I had no idea. I thought I was in the 20s," said Brandon, joking that she could have broken 40 points had she made free throws. "I was slightly frustrated that I didn't get to 40 though."

Minor frustration compared to what other teams go through to try and stop her. She has the size and strength to take smaller players in the post, the speed and athleticism to go by post players on the perimeter and she handles the ball as well as a point guard.

"Her midrange jumper is deadly. She's got moves to go past you now. Last year she relied a lot more on her body. No she has great footwork and change of direction and her ball handling has improved," VanDerveer said. "She's evolved into an extremely talented player."

Oxy trailed for most of the game. It wasn't until Liz Little (Littleton, CO) scored on a drive to the basket that the Tigers finally led 46-45 nearly 7 minutes into the second half.

Oxy's Katelyn Rowe recorded her fourth double double of the season with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Whittier (4-11, 1-3) had a balanced night offensively. Dannika Navales-Lught, Tanisha White, Alex Coon and Bianca Mitchell all were in double figures for the Poets. Coon led with 15.

The Tigers have maybe their toughest three-game stretch coming up with games against arguably the next three best teams in the SCIAC. Oxy faces Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on the road on Jan. 19 in a rematch of last season's SCIAC tournament championship game, then plays at Cal Lutheran on Jan. 21 before returning home to place 2010-11 second place Redlands.

 "They circle this game," VanDerveer said. "We're going to have to play very well to beat Claremont, Cal Lu and Redlands."