With women’s basketball looking for its first conference-winning record in four seasons, a split over the weekend presented a bump in the road as the Maroons head for the home stretch.
On the tails of a 72–68 victory over eighth-ranked NYU (13–5, 2–5), the South Siders (13–5, 4–3 UAA) headed into this weekend looking for a sweep of conference rivals Carnegie Mellon (7–11, 0–7) and Rochester (17–1, 7–0). Chicago looked to be well on its way, defeating the Tartans 84–53 Friday night, but the newly eighth-ranked Yellowjackets held off a second-half charge by the Maroons to win 54–48.
Friday night’s game showcased the Maroons’ sharp ball movement as Chicago notched 24 assists, two shy of the season high. Patience around the perimeter helped the Maroons shoot 67 percent from the field in the first half, as the guests streaked out to a 17–2 lead to start the game.
“We were really moving the ball well,” head coach Aaron Roussell said. “That was the majority of the reason of our success. We were also able to get out in transition, run the floor, and get some easy baskets.”
The Tartans, however, would not go quietly into the night, as third-year guard Colleen Light chipped in seven points amid a 16–4 run by Carnegie.
“We started to relax a little, took our foot off the gas,” Roussell said. “Every time they made a run, we bounced back and eventually ended it.”
With Carnegie creeping to within a trey at 21–18, Chicago’s three-point margin exploded into a 16-point cushion as second-year forward Molly Hackney scored nine of the game’s next 13 points.
Hackney’s layup and ensuing foul shot left the momentum firmly in Chicago’s grasp, as this season’s leading scorer sank three more layups to build a 34–18 lead for the Maroons.
The South Siders continued to roll into the second half, leading by at least 20 points for the game’s final 10:52.
Hackney continued to set the pace for the Maroons, pouring in 17 points, while second-year guard Jamie Stinson contributed 10 assists. Chicago shot a season-high 55 percent en route to an 84–53 blowout.
The numbers, however, would not be as pretty Sunday night as the South Siders struggled to find open shooters and points in the paint in their loss to Rochester.
Stumbling out of the gates, the Maroons shot 33 percent from the field and scored just 22 points in the first half after pouring in 46 first-half points against Carnegie two nights before.
“I think we got away from what was working on Friday,” Roussell said. “We weren’t willing to be patient…. Sometimes you make two or three passes, other times you have to make six or seven; you’ve got to be willing to make passes.”
Rochester’s 15 steals, a season high for Chicago opponents, kept the Maroons to just seven assists, a season low. The South Siders committed a total of 25 turnovers, which the Yellowjackets translated into 17 points.
The Maroons, however, stayed with Rochester deep into the second half, taking their first lead after the break. With the score tied at 42 with just over five minutes remaining, turnovers led to a 12–6 run for the Yellowjackets to end the game.
“We just continued to turn the ball over,” Roussell said, citing the Maroons’ inability to get to the basket in the game’s closing minutes. “If we value possessions, our numbers show we do score when we get shots up.”
Third-year forward Julie Marriott led all scorers with 19 points in the game. Hackney finished with just four points on two-of-eight shooting as the South Siders struggled from the outside, finishing the night shooting 15 percent from beyond the arc.
“I know their focus was on taking away the paint,” Roussell said of Rochester’s defense. “When you’re shooting the ball well, you don’t need to respect the perimeter…. When you’re not hitting from the outside you become an easy team to defend.”
With four days to regroup this week, Chicago will play a repeat of this weekend starting with Rochester on Friday, followed by Carnegie on Sunday. Home court, however, could be all the difference for the Maroons, who have just one home loss all season.
“Every team is more comfortable at home,” Roussell said. “We have to be willing to move the basketball and get open shots. If we can do that, we’ll be in good shape…. When we’ve been really good, we’ve won as a team.”
Chicago will have the comfort of home court advantage in five of their final seven games, but at fourth place in the UAA, the Maroons will need every win they can get.
“We’ve had the toughest path. We’ve played five conference games on the road; Rochester has played five at home,” Roussell said. “We lost a chance to put everything in our control if we had won yesterday. Outside of Rochester, if we just win our games, we’ll jump ahead of everyone else.”