Every game against NYU is a dogfight. Virtually every team in the UAA knows this. It's no surprise then that almost every team in the UAA has something of an acquired distaste for the team from Greenwich Village.
"They're a physical, in-your-face type of team," head coach Jennifer Kroll said. "They play tough basketball, and they have one of the biggest home court advantages in the UAA."
Accordingly, any win in New York counts as a big win. Unfortunately, although the Maroons handed NYU a 70-64 loss the last time the teams met in Chicago, winning in New York is an entirely different story. NYU's home court boasts nearly 1,500 fans at every home game, a team band, and a vocal cheerleading crew. Nevertheless, Chicago put up one heck of a fight this past Friday, but NYU still came out on top, 55-52.
After the difficult loss to NYU, the Maroons faced Brandeis University in Massachusetts. Drained from their close defeat in New York, Chicago never mustered up enough energy to hold down Brandeis, and Brandeis won the game 59-49. The second consecutive loss dropped the Maroons to 9-14 for the season (5-8 in UAA play).
Like most NYU vs. Chicago matchups, the game last Friday promised close, hard-fought basketball. The game went back and forth, with the two teams often exchanging baskets and fouls. Chicago played tough defense, holding NYU to a 36 percent shooting percentage in the first half, but NYU countered with stingy defense of their own. NYU tried to force turnovers as well. Given the aggressive play of these two evenly matched teams, it was no surprise that the squads headed to the locker room at halftime with the score knotted at 24-24.
The second half played out much like the first. Chicago and NYU traded more baskets, and neither team was able to pull away. Chicago shot well in the second half, hitting 52 percent of their shots, and the Maroons' defense forced NYU to shoot a poor 33 percent from the floor in the second period of play. Unfortunately, NYU continued to pressure the Maroons, and Chicago gave up the ball 23 times. NYU managed to hit a big three-pointer towards the end, and then they made their foul shots to ice the game. Although it was a close affair, the Maroons found themselves looking at the wrong end of a 55-52 score line when the final buzzer sounded.
Despite the loss, several Chicago players played quite well. Second-year forward Angel Korer scored a game-high 20 points, and second-year guard Paula Lepka pitched in with 11 points of her own. Lepka also grabbed 10 rebounds in the game. Second-year forward Jamie Bleck also played well, recording 10 rebounds for the night.
After the game, Kroll was pleased with her team's effort in such difficult surroundings.
"We played NYU competitively for the whole game," Kroll said. "We just turned the ball over too much at the end to win the game we had some situation where we were just throwing the ball right to NYU players, and that hurt us. Of course, I'm disappointed with the result, but I'm pleased with how we competed with them. We really laid everything on the floor."
After the emotionally draining ordeal in New York, the Maroons never managed to get themselves mentally ready for the Brandeis game on Sunday. Chicago actually started out the game quite well, earning a 21-17 advantage by halftime. Moreover, the Maroons once again played solid defense, forcing Brandeis to shoot an abysmal 28 percent from the floor. Despite this achievement, the second half once again saw the Maroons unravel down the stretch.
Brandeis hit key free throws, markedly improved their shooting (they shot nearly 50 percent in the second half), and tightened up their defense to stifle the Maroons. Korer and Lepka once again played well for Chicago, however, scoring 14 points each. Also, third-year guard Laura Hebel scored 13 points for the game, and Bleck contributed with three assists and two steals. Although several Maroons played well, Brandeis simply outlasted Chicago, and the Massachusetts team subsequently earned a 59-49 victory.
"The Brandeis loss was really a matter of inconsistency," Kroll said. "We've had some trouble putting together strong back-to-back performances this season."
After another grueling weekend of UAA play, things don't get any easier for the Maroons. This Saturday, Chicago faces top-ranked Washington University in St. Louis. Undoubtedly, the Maroons know the challenge that awaits them.
"We're looking to finish the season on a good note," Kroll said. "Of course, we want to do what no one else has done this season, but we also want to focus on making the most of our defensive possessions. We want to be mentally focused."