Women’s hoops slides into fifth

By Wayne

Bringing back bad memories of last season’s midwinter swoon, women’s basketball continued its free fall with a pair of heartbreaking road losses.

In a rematch of last weekend’s games at Ratner, 13th-ranked Chicago (16–4) fell 52–50 to 19th-ranked Brandeis (15–3) Friday and came up just short against 18th-ranked NYU (18–2) Sunday, dropping the contest 76–75. Sitting atop the league after a win over then-second-ranked Rochester on January 21, they have since dropped four straight games and fallen to fifth in the standings.

In stark contrast to their sluggish performance in their previous homestand, the Maroons showed a competitive fire Friday night and nearly pulled out the win. Trailing 38–25 with 15:10 left in the game, the South Siders clamped down on defense and held the Judges without a field goal for the next seven minutes. Chicago responded on the offensive end with a 17–2 run, finally grabbing its first lead of the half on a three-pointer by fourth-year Korry Schwanz with 9:07 remaining.

The game stayed fairly even the rest of the way with Brandeis keeping it close from the line and drawing the Maroons into foul trouble. After Chicago retook the lead once again, 50–49, on free throws from third-year guard Nofi Mojidi, Brandeis closed it out on the line to end the game. The Maroons put up two shots in their final possession for the tie, but went 0-for-2 on those attempts.

The stat sheet mostly went Chicago’s way, as the ladies outshot Brandeis 41 percent to 33 percent from the field. The Maroons also controlled the boards, outrebounding their opponents 39–30. Although the visitors’ aggressive defense forced 17 Judges turnovers, the Maroons shot themselves in the foot by turning it over 22 times themselves.

“Turnovers have been a problem for us all season long,” head coach Aaron Roussell said. “But that just comes with the style of basketball we play. We just got to execute better next time. Our players played hard against Brandeis—the game could have gone either way. We learn from our mistakes, and we will try to limit our turnovers.”

Also affecting the outcome was the 22–11 foul differential in favor of Brandeis. The home side went to the line 11 more times than their guests over the course of the game, and free throws accounted for 10 of their 28 second-half points.

In a losing effort, first-year forward Molly Hackney filled up the stat sheet with 11 points, seven rebounds, six steals, three assists, and three blocks. Schwanz led the team in scoring with 12 points on 2-for-2 from behind the arc. Mojidi battled foul trouble for much of the night and finished with seven points. It marked only the second time the UAA’s second-leading scorer has been held to single-digit points in 19 games this year.

The Maroons did not receive any better luck against NYU. Trying to return the favor after falling 75–66 at Ratner two weeks ago, the visitors once again got the short end of the stick and fell in a one-point loss. The Maroons opened up a 35–29 advantage at the half, but the Violets came out running in the second stanza, outscoring Chicago 10–4 in the first 6:04 of the second half to knot things up at 39. NYU kept control of the lead until Mojidi’s layup with 6:32 remaining tied the game again at 53 apiece. The Violets retook the lead after that point, but with 10 seconds left in regulation and the Maroons needing a miracle, Mojidi threw in a game-tying three-pointer. It appeared the game was headed to overtime, but Schwanz was whistled for a foul with 3.1 ticks on the clock to give the Manhattanites one last shot at victory. Adrienne Rochetti hit the first and missed the second to bring them to a 76–75 victory over the Maroons.

“Both of these games have been very close games,” Roussell said. “We’re going against a couple of top 20 teams in the nation, so we aren’t extraordinarily disappointed. We caught some tough breaks the last few games, but otherwise we could have come out with wins in both of these games. We learned some valuable lessons this weekend.”

Like the game against Brandeis, Chicago outshot NYU 43 percent to 33 percent on field goals and outrebounded the Violets 49–40. However, the Maroons could not control the defensive glass in the second half, which allowed for 16 offensive boards for the home team. Turnovers killed the Maroons once again in the Sunday game—Chicago finished with 24 turnovers with only 17 assists, while NYU racked up 16 assists on only 14 turnovers.

“NYU really hurt us on the boards and on the foul line,” Roussell said. “We didn’t keep them off the glass, and they scored on us with those second chances. Usually, we’re a great rebounding team, but we have to play hard for the whole game. We also couldn’t keep them off the foul line, and those things really hurt us on Sunday.”

Mojidi followed up her uncharacteristic performance on Friday with a 26-point, six rebound explosion against the Violets, and tallied her 1,000th career point. Hackney continued her fine freshman campaign with 11 points and team-high nine rebounds along with three blocks. No other Maroon reached doubled figures, but the team racked up a collective effort on both offensive and defense.

The Maroons continue UAA play against Case Western (9–11, 0–7) at home on Friday and will battle Emory (8–12, 2–7) on Sunday afternoon in their home finale.

“In basketball, things don’t always go your way,” Roussell said. “All of our losses have been close games. We know what we have to work on and we’ll be ready next week.”