Women split with upset of #7 NYU

By Loretta Nuccio

Coming off a tough loss to ranked Brandeis, the Maroons had no interest in letting another upset chance slip away.

Rebounding from a 68-62 heartbreaker against the Judges, Chicago (13-7, 6-3) put down seventh-ranked NYU 67-52 at Ratner Sunday, salvaging the end of a four-game stretch against top-15 opponents. Their refocused play earned the team a season split against the Violets, pulling them into a three-way tie for second with NYU and Washington and denying the visitors a valuable tiebreaker in postseason consideration.

Pulling out a win against the Violets became critical following the upset chance that had turned upsetting against Brandeis Friday. Despite out-rebounding the home team 20-13 in the first half, the 14th-ranked Judges could only build a 33-27 lead by the break. Tough defense held Brandeis first-year Jaime Capra, who lit up Chicago for 25 points in an 84-76 Brandeis win January 30, to just two buckets from the floor. The Maroons opened the second half with a 9-2 run to take a 36-35 lead, and rallied in the battle of the boards to maintain a narrow lead for most of the rest of the way. Unfortunately, poor free throw shooting and unfortunate turnovers in the final two and a half minutes allowed Brandeis to pull off a deflating comeback.

With Capra shut down, the Judges were led by second-year Alison Chase, who managed 18 points after accumulating just nine on the season before Friday's showdown.

"Brandeis has a lot of very talented players, and we felt we did a great job containing them," head coach Aaron Roussell said. "Our goal against them was to not allow their three best players to beat us. Unfortunately for us, they had other players who stepped up that night."

First-year guard Nofi Mojidi went shot for shot with Chase, scoring 21 points on 10-for-14 shooting from the floor. Mojidi's classmate, forward Nicaya Rapier, pulled down eight rebounds, seven of them coming in the second half, to help the team win the battle for the glass 37-34.

After this wrenching loss extended Chicago's losing streak to three games, the team vowed to rededicate themselves to careful, focused play against NYU, and it showed.

After giving up 91 points to the Violets in a loss in Manhattan January 28, the Maroons put in an impressive defensive effort and held the visitors to just 52, NYU's lowest point total in 57 games.

In a fast-paced first frame, third-year forward Jenn Kaiser and Mojidi hit two big layups just before halftime to give Chicago a 26-23 edge. In the second, bludgeoning defense combined with 84 percent free throw shooting and a career-best performance from Kaiser let Chicago pull away.

Kaiser had a double-double on the night, and had career highs for both points (21) and rebounds (12). She was also three for three from the line, finishing off a trio of three-point plays.

"I think everything just clicked for me that game, and as it kept going well, I was getting more and more excited. I had all this adrenaline going through me and it just made me play that much better." Kaiser said.

Other stand-out performances came from Mojidi, who finished the game with 13 points and four steals, and third-year forward Susie Gutowski who had her league-leading eighth double-double, scoring 10 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.

After their brief home stand, the Maroons return to the road, going head-to-head with Case Western Friday and Emory Sunday. After going 1-3 against two of the league's best, the team is ready for the challenge of maintaining the second-place standing they will likely need for a postseason berth.

The split weekend has given the team a new focus and a new idea on how to win.

"The only way Case or Emory can win is if we beat ourselves by not bringing energy. We are the ones in control of how our games go, not our opponents," Gutowski said.