Turnovers trouble struggling women in weekend split

By Kate Fratar

This time last year women’s basketball was playing the role of spoiler. Now, the squad will be focusing on finishing like the team of old and avoiding having its own season spoiled.

Hopes for postseason play grew even dimmer after this weekend’s road trip. It was déjà vu all over again for Chicago (15–5, 4–5) with the team losing 68–59 at 23rd-ranked Rochester (17–3, 6–3) Friday and blowing out Carnegie Mellon (5–15, 0–9) 72–50 Sunday in Pittsburgh. Just like in last weekend’s Ratner showdowns, the Maroons fell apart in the second against the Yellowjackets and had to play catch-up against the Tartans. Fourth-year forward Susie Gutowski really racked up points this weekend, averaging 19 per game. Third-year guard Korry Schwanz and second-year guard Nofi Mojidi each posted 13 points per game for Chicago.

The Maroons came out strong against Rochester, answering each of the Yellowjackets’ buckets in a battle to secure a steady lead in the first seven minutes of play. A layup in the paint from first-year guard Helen Baroody with 13:29 left in the opening frame put her team on top for the rest of the half, but Chicago kept the game within reach, trailing by just one point at 37–36 going into the break.

“I think we did a nice job in the first half,” head coach Aaron Roussell said. “We came out and had a couple of lapses to start the half and didn’t match their fire.”

Charging to the post from the very beginning of the second, the Yellowjackets stung the Maroons with an 11–0 run. Second-year forward Jessica Waddell inflicted most of the damage, posting eight of the team’s points during that five-minute stretch. Chicago responded, narrowing the lead all the way back down to a point with 7:31 left at 51–50. Three layups from Gutowski in the paint helped to cut down the lead before Rochester regained control and put the game away 68–59.

Continuing their success in wiping the glass from last weekend, the Maroons won the battle of the boards 40–36. They pulled down 29 defensive rebounds to the Yellowjackets’ 21, but struggled mightily to maintain possession. Turnovers have acted as Chicago’s Achilles heel over the past several games, and this game was no exception, as the Maroons gave up 14 of their 24 turnovers in the second. Rochester collected 18 steals to Chicago’s 7 on the game.

“We’ve done a good job rebounding. If we can continue to do that and still work on our turnovers, we should be pretty dangerous,” Roussell said. “The turnovers have been a problem all year, and I think we’re starting to feel the effects of it more so lately because we’re playing some better teams.”

Facing a 41-game losing streak in the conference, the Tartans burst onto the courts eager to bring an end to their losing ways. Carnegie took an early advantage in the opening frame, and Chicago trailed until fourth-year guard Janae Winner banked one from beyond the arc to put the team ahead 18–16. The Maroons closed out the last nine minutes of the half, outscoring Carnegie 21–10 for a 39–26 cushion.

Dominating the courts in the second, Chicago limited the Tartans to a 23.5 percent shooting mark as Gutowski netted 13 of her total 21 points in the last 20 to lead the way.

Gutowski’s scoring total was a game-high, but she made a much more lasting mark in the Chicago record books over the weekend. Gutowski’s two-for-two showing from the line Friday matched tied Catherine Fitzgerald (A.B. ’93)’s program career-record total of 289 free throw points. She nailed three of four attempts Sunday to set the new record at 292 and counting. Fitzgerald’s mark had been untouched for 13 years.

With the end of the season drawing nigh, the Maroons return to Ratner this weekend to host Emory (14–6, 4–5) and Case (9–11, 2–7). Chicago plays three of its final five games at home, where the team has a 5–3 record, standing in sharp contrast to their 10–2 mark on the road. The squad faces off against nationally ranked teams in its last three games.

An 18–2, 8–1 record puts Wash U at the top of the league and in position to grab the automatic NCAA tournament bid. Brandeis (15–3, 6–3) and NYU (17–3, 6–3) currently stand as the Bears’ strongest competition for the title.

“I think we started to look a little bit ahead early instead of realizing the task at hand and getting that done,” Roussell said. “We need to start focusing on that next game.”

After starting the season with high expectations and on a 10–0 tear, women’s basketball has fallen into a 2–4 slump and will need to stir up some Maroon magic for the final five games of the regular season.

“We need to come out strong,” Roussell said. “We have five games left against five very good teams.”