More than two millennia after the Romans burned the ancient city to the ground, Carthage was on fire again Saturday night—this time in the much more positive, NBA Jam sense of the phrase.
Playing against 11th-ranked women’s basketball, Carthage (4–0) shot 63.6 percent from the field in the second half en route to a 64–62 upset of the Maroons (4–1) at Ratner.
Despite an early poor showing, Chicago trailed Carthage by only four with 13 seconds left on the clock, and second-year guard Joann Torres made a quick lay-up to cut the deficit to two with eight seconds left.
After the ensuing inbounds play, second-year guard Meghan Herrick quickly fouled Carthage guard Katie Klemke. Klemke entered the game having made all of her four free-throw attempts, but failed to convert the front end of the one-and-one.
Chicago snared the rebound and quickly got the ball to Torres’s hands. Torres dribbled upcourt before finding second-year guard Bryanne Halfhill standing alone in the left corner. Halfhill’s buzzer-beater clanked off the rim, denying the Maroons what would have been a dramatic comeback.
Chicago had spent the entire game playing from behind after Carthage opened with an 18–2 run. The Maroons struggled to maintain possession throughout the first half and committed 11 turnovers in the first 20 minutes. When Chicago did manage to get shots off, they had difficulty finding the net, and they shot just 20 percent from the field before halftime.
Second-year post Taylor Simpson attributed Chicago’s early mistakes to tough defense by the Lady Reds.
“Carthage plays a very aggressive defense, so I think we just made a lot of mental mistakes,” Simpson said. “We did not take care of the ball well at all, and I think we kind of panicked when they pressured us so hard.”
Head coach Aaron Roussell felt that his team lacked their usual intensity early in the contest.
“We came out really lethargic. We didn’t have that burst of energy that I felt we started with in the other games”.
After trailing 28–16 at the break, Roussell made a tactical adjustment that paid dividends in the second half.
“We ended up changing our lineup a little bit. We went a little smaller and played four guards,” Roussell said. “The biggest thing was our kids had their backs up against the wall, and came out fighting.”
That fighting spirit bolstered Chicago’s offense in the second half. Herrick led the comeback attempt with 24 second-half points. On the game, Herrick led all scorers with 26 points, a new career high.
“[Herrick] was the reason we got back in the game. She put us on her back and carried us, and got us back in the ballgame,” Roussell said.
Fourth-year guard Jamie Stinson also chipped in 10 second-half points for Chicago, which shot better than 40 percent from the field and from beyond the arc in the second half.
As effective as the Maroons were, the Lady Reds were even better. Carthage nailed four of the seven three-pointers after halftime, and 14 of 22 field goals overall in the half.
Nonetheless, Chicago managed to claw its way back into the game thanks in part to superior rebounding. Despite using four guards, the Maroons still out-rebounded the Lady Reds 16–10 in the second half.
While disappointed to lose, Roussell was realistic about his team’s performance.
“If we would have made that shot at the end, we would have stolen that game. We probably did not deserve to win,” he said.