LOS ANGELES — Makenzie Brandon (Seattle, Wash.) torched the stat sheet with one of the greatest NCAA Division III women's basketball performances of all-time and Occidental took control of first place with a 115-105 win at La Verne on Saturday.
Brandon scored 54 points, just seven short of the NCAA Division III women's basketball record of 61 points set by Ann Gilbert of Oberlin College in 1991.
The senior forward converted 23 of 30 shots from the field, 8 of 9 from the line and had 14 rebounds, eight assists and two steals to go with it.
Brandon, the 2011-12 SCIAC Women's Basketball Player of the Year, has had quite an amazing Oxy career, but this performance is definitely the most memorable.
"I've been trying to get to 40 my entire career so to have a game like this really feels unreal, honestly," Brandon said. "And to beat a team that was at the top of the standings with us makes it even more memorable."
Brandon's previous career high was 36, set against Whittier last season.
La Verne came into the night half-a-game ahead of the Tigers for second place. Cal Lutheran also lost on Thursday, giving Oxy sole possession of the SCIAC's top spot with one round of conference play in the books.
"My teammates were putting me in great spots and I just felt more and more comfortable with each shot," Brandon said. "I've had streaks in the past, but nothing that was ever close to this. ... Wow."
Her 28 points at the half created a buzz at the Frantz Athletic Court, with fans whispering about witnessing a potential record-setting night against the Grinnell-like, fast-paced game the Leopards play.
"(Brandon) had an incredible night," Oxy coach Anahit Aladzhanyan said. "She has had an unbelievable career and tonight she not only won us the game, but really put together a performance for the record books."
But the game was close with the Leopards actually controlling the back end of the first half.
After jumping out to a 12-0 lead, the Tigers had a series of turnovers around the 10-minute mark that led to La Verne leading by as many as nine. The Leopards' five-in, five-out substitution pattern and run-and-gun tempo on offense resulted in eight three pointers in the first half and 13 on the game.
Lindsey Foster led ULV with 20 points and Megan Musahi scored 18.
Part of the problem early was SCIAC Female Student-Athlete of the Week Elizabeth Messick (Reno, Nev.) on the bench for 14 minutes in the first half due to foul trouble. Without the 6-foot-3 post player, who's fourth in the nation in blocks per game (4.3), the Leopards got to the basket without fear and could drive and kick for open shots against a tired, sagging Oxy defense in transition.
The Tigers weathered the storm and Liz Little (Littleton, Colo.) ended the period on a high note with a three from the top of the key that cut La Verne's lead to 66-63.
In the second half, a refreshed and refocused Oxy came out on fire, extending a 101-79 lead by the 10-minute mark. The offense came on in a flurry with Brandon leading the charge. Twice she scored 10 of the Oxy's points in a row to keep the Leopards at a distance. Marquisha Corley (Tucson, Ariz.) contributed 15 points — 11 in the second, Michelle Naito-Lo (Monterey Park) had 10, Messick finished with nine, Katelyn Rowe (Carlsbad) had eight and Little had seven.
The Tigers did it at the defensive end in the second half as well. Messick blocked four shots, the Tigers forced 11 turnovers and limited the Leopards to 39 points on 25.5 percent shooting.
"It's a great team win, on the road, against a very good team," Aladzhanyan said.
Oxy returns to SCIAC play on Saturday, hosting Chapman at 5 p.m.