Women’s hoops grabs first-ever win at NYU

By Sean Ahmed

NYU may have had 1,919 fans on its feet taunting the visiting Maroons Friday night. They may have had the 20th spot in the D3hoops.com poll, a position previously held by Chicago. They may have had a two-game lead over Chicago in the conference and overall standings.

In the end, all they didn’t have was enough game to beat their guests.

Drawing on the energy and fast-paced offense that keyed the Violets in an 83–71 NYU win at Ratner January 22, Chicago silenced its detractors and its fired-up opponent Friday with a 61–56 upset that had the team briefly back in the UAA title picture. But the Maroons, short their two most physical post players, couldn’t follow it up Sunday as their comeback hopes were buried by Brandeis second-year guard Jamie Capra’s late three in a 63–60 loss.

“Everyone was impressed with Friday night,” head coach Aaron Roussell said. “We had a tough time matching up with Brandeis no question, but it could have gone either way. I was really hoping to go 2–0 on this trip. On the flip side, the kids played their tails off and got a win where we never have before.”

After the first meeting of the year, in which the Violets (18–5, 7–5) ran over the Maroons from the outset and built as much as a 23-point lead, Chicago was hoping for a little sweet revenge. It may have taken a while to get things going with a 5–5 deadlock through the game’s sloppy first six-and-a-half minutes, but by the time the Violets gained a 16–11 lead with eight minutes left in the half, the visitors had seen enough. One first-year in particular decided to take charge.

Rookie guard Alex Leach tore through a chronically undefended lane to score 8 of her team’s next 10 points and put her team up 17–16 with 5:18 left. A hard-nosed, physical player, Leach’s performance not only got points on the board but also pumped some adrenaline into a squad that has frequently looked flat.

“We’re struggling and saying, ‘Don’t let them keep steamrolling you,’” Roussell said. “Maybe it’s exaggerating a little to say she put us on her back, but she made her shots, hit from the outside and down low, and hit from the high post. It was a big-time matchup problem for NYU on Friday.”

The Maroons’ 10–0 run gave them a 21–16 lead, but NYU battled back with six straight points of its own to grab the advantage. Leach wasn’t done in the first half, however. She hit a layup and a buzzer-beating three to put her squad up 26–22 going into the break. The team’s sparkplug would finish with 18 points and 8 boards.

With the post neutralized, second-year guard Nofi Mojidi (16 points) stepped up in the second half to put the bout away. After her early trey started a back-and-forth battle in the first eight minutes, the speedy backcourt maven picked first-year guard Iseult Conlin’s pocket with 12 minutes left. Just seconds later, fourth-year shooting guard Taryn Holgash hit a three of her own to put Chicago up 37–35 and for good.

Despite missing their two best defensive post players—second-year Nicaya Rapier, who tore her ACL last weekend, and classmate Naomi Tesfamikael, who sustained yet another knee injury early in the second half—Chicago effectively switched between zone and man-to-man defenses to frustrate NYU’s forwards. The Violets frontcourt trio went 8-for-29 from the field, though they did pull down 33 rebounds, while starting fourth-year guard Kate Higier went an atrocious one-for-nine. Point guard third-year Adrienne Rochetti missed the game with a concussion, and her team looked lost shooting 28.6 percent.

The win was personal for Chicago, which has surprisingly been more successful on the road (11–3, 4–3) than at home (6–4, 2–4).

“The entire game their students were taunting us,” said fourth-year point guard Janae Winner, who averaged 5.5 points and 3.5 boards in two games. “When the buzzer sounded at the end of the game, although the gym was packed, it was silent except for us celebrating on the court. Then, our bus got egged as we were riding home. It was a good win.”

Sunday’s game at Brandeis featured a new matchup problem for the Maroons. Unlike the fast-paced Violets, the Judges often whittle the shot clock down to 10 seconds before finding one of two deadly post players, third-year Caitlin Malcolm and fourth-year Christine Clancy. Tesfamikael’s injury came at the wrong time both for her team and for the rebounding machine.

“It’s tough to see a kid go down that’s worked so hard to come back,” Roussell said. “She’s been so good recently in practice and games, and just when you think she’s starting to see results—it’s unfortunate for the team but more so for her. It’s not what she deserved.”

Malcolm had her way with the Maroons early, earning her eighth double-double of the season by the break. Behind her effort, Brandeis jogged out to a 15–5 lead over the first eight minutes, and the Maroons shot 24.1 percent heading into the halftime down 34–19.

“We got good shots in the first half—we just maybe didn’t shoot them with a lot of confidence,” Roussell said. “In the second half, we were definitely in attack mode and we didn’t have any regard for who we were going after.”

Without the physical advantage down low and with fourth-year forwards Susie Gutowski and Jenn Kaiser struggling offensively, Mojidi again proved there’s no match for her athleticism. Although she only hit one field goal in the second half, she got to the line three times and hit all six of her charity shots.

She perhaps should have gone to the line another time with four minutes left and her team down 56–54. Charging down the lane, Mojidi ended up clipping a pair of Judges rushing to stop her. After a brief meeting, the officials called the charge. Mojidi joined Leach (nine points) on the pine with four fouls, taking away most of the Maroons’ driving ability.

“She has that mentality to just attack. She had a charging call late that was a major call in the game—it put her on the bench,” Roussell said. “I definitely thought it should have gone the other way.”

Brandeis rediscovered Malcolm late, and her moves gave her team the 60–56 lead. Gutowski answered with a layup and a pair of free throws to tie, but just as Chicago tried to shut down Malcolm, Capra hit a trey with 1:27 left.

The Maroons would get one final chance. Down by three with 16 seconds left, they tried to run down the court and grab a quick two. Third-year shooting guard Korry Schwanz’s (17 points, 7 rebounds) shots were blocked, leading Roussell to call a timeout and get his team thinking tie. Winner’s inbounds pass found Schwanz, who pump faked and drew contact. The refs decided it wasn’t enough to call a three-shot foul, giving the Maroons six of seven losses to nationally ranked teams.