Hungry teams provide unexpected challenge for women’s hoops

By Kate Fratar

Women’s basketball faced some unexpected battles on the road this weekend, but they pulled through and returned to Chicago with two more marks in the win column.

After falling three spots to 22nd as the result of a crushing loss to Wash U, women’s basketball (13–1, 2–1) got right back on the winning track this weekend, fighting to the last minute for victories at Case (8–6, 1–2) 70–62 and Emory (10–4, 0–3) 72–62. Second-year guard Nofi Mojidi carried Chicago’s offense, sparking comebacks and averaging 16.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game on the trip.

“To go on the road and win in this league is a very difficult thing to do,” head coach Aaron Roussell said. “For us to come out 2–0 is huge for us. The fact that the games were close is not surprising one bit.”

The Maroons started their weekend with a come-from-behind victory against the Spartans Friday evening, bouncing back from a 42–26 halftime deficit. Mojidi led the squad with 17 points on the game with third-year shooting guard Korry Schwanz contributing 12 points and fourth-year forward Jenn Kaiser adding 10.

Fourth-year forward Susie Gutowski recorded her first double-double of the season and 12th of her career, sinking 11 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. Gutowski, who ranks second on the team in points per game with 13.0 and third in rebounds with a 5.3 average, also added four assists as she continued to be faced with double-teams.

With 3:28 remaining on the clock in the first half, second-year guard Mary Herendeen boosted Case’s offense, giving her team control of the ball after her trey gave the Spartans a 17–6 advantage. Before getting shut down by Case, Chicago countered with a small run to close the gap to 17–10 with 11:50 to go.

After that the Maroons couldn’t muster up any more offense, getting nine of their next 16 points at the charity stripe before going into the break. Case scored the bulk of its points on three-pointers, sinking all eight shots from beyond the arc for 24 of their 42 points in the opening frame.

“We got some good shots against Case in the first, but they just weren’t falling,” said Roussell.

Schwanz got things going after halftime for Chicago with a jumper that sparked a 12–2 run for the team, bringing the game back within reach at 44–40. She recorded all 12 of her points in the second half.

The rattled Spartans slowed things down with a time-out and refocused their offense to rebuild their lead to 60–52, but the Chicago defense was the story, as it recorded 12 second-half steals. As the Chicago half-court defense started throttling the Spartans’ guards, Mojidi delivered the deathblow on the other end with three straight layups that secured a 63–62 Chicago lead with 2:39 left in the game. Mojidi, who leads the team with 13.9 points per game, netted 13 in the second half and had four steals overall.

Facing Emory, Chicago again met hungry opposition, this time being forced to defend a lead in Sunday’s 72–62 victory. The Eagles entered the game having lost their first two UAA contests after beginning the year 10–1.

Mojidi and Gutowski were the top scorers on the day, posting 16 and 15 points, respectively. Second-year guard Nicaya Rapier and Kaiser led the team in rebounds, pulling down 12 and 10 as the Maroons won the battle of the boards 48–30.

The Eagles started the game matching the Maroons shot-for-shot until first-year guard Erin Wagner broke open the score on a jumper with four minutes left, starting a 12–5 run that established Chicago’s 36–26 halftime lead.

Early in the second, the Maroons controlled the floor, building up their lead to as much as 13 points. With their backs against the wall, the Eagles battled back, and fourth-year forward Lynn Oberschmidt’s jumper just before the shot-clock buzzer tied the game at 61 with just under two minutes

Gutowski made sure the game didn’t stay tied for long, countering Oberschmidt’s shot 22 seconds later with a jumper in the paint for a 63–61 Chicago lead. The Maroons wrapped up the final minute outscoring the Eagles 9–1 for a 72–62 final score. Partly because they were successfully driving to the basket but partly because Emory was fouling late to recover the ball, Chicago scored 21 of 36 second-half points from the line.

“The number of free throws shows we’re really being the aggressors and attacking the basket,” Roussell said.

After the bumpy but successful road trip, the Maroons return to start a four-game homestand this weekend, tipping-off against second-ranked Brandeis (10–1, 2–1) on Friday and 20th-ranked NYU (12–1, 2–1) on Sunday. Friday night’s matchup will be Beach Night at Ratner.