This past weekend the women's basketball team continued to experience some growing pains. After skillfully up-ending longtime rival New York University 59-45 on Friday evening, Chicago finished its home stand on a sour note, falling to Brandeis University 72-62 in a Sunday matinee. The Maroons did come within five points of the lead with just under four minutes to play, but a clutch lay-up by the Judges' talented center, Danielle Fitzpatrick, put the game on ice for good. Chicago continues to hover around the .500 mark with an 8-10 overall record and a 2-5 record in conference play.
Heading into the weekend the team had been excited about the opportunity to overtake both schools in the conference standings, as each team had similar UAA records. After the win over NYU, Chicago's prospects seemed even brighter. Unfortunately, Brandeis played a style of basketball so entirely different from NYU that the Maroons were unable to adjust until well into the second half.
The principal differences between the opponents were the defenses. According to Chicago head coach Jennifer Kroll, NYU is the more aggressive of the two, putting more emphasis on pressuring the perimeter of the arc. Chicago's style of consistent and intelligent ball movement was able to trump NYU's over-committing defenders and created multiple scoring chances.
The Brandeis defense on the other hand tended to collapse around the key, clogging up the post and making it very difficult for the Maroons to generate many opportunities inside. Brandeis seemed naturally inclined toward such a strategy because of its considerable size and strength. As a result, Chicago was often left with difficult outside shots and a dying shot clock. Kroll explained her team was able to move the ball well, but couldn't take the next step. "Penetration should come after ball rotation in our offense. That is when the defense is vulnerable. What we didn't do well was recognizing good shots out of our offense without the dribble."
In the first half of the Brandeis game, the Judges repeatedly fed the ball underneath the basket to their center, Fitzpatrick, who racked up a Shaq-like 18 points in the first half (true to the analogy she also missed all of her free throws). Another potent feature of the Brandeis offense was a solid ability to get shots off immediately after receiving a pass.
Despite the Judges' solid first half effort, Chicago hung tough, shooting 52 percent from the field. The Maroons were hitting most of their outside shots, even when shooting right over the Brandeis defenders. Particularly effective were the Maroon guards, who drained six out of eight three-point attempts. First-years Susan Gutowski and Janae Winner and second-year Daniela Lieber all hit two shots from beyond the arc. By the end of the half, Chicago was only down by six.
Both teams made some significant halftime adjustments, but it was Brandeis that ultimately won the day. The Judges began the half with a quick three and set the tone for the rest of the half by making the Maroons work hard for each and every basket. As a result, Chicago's shooting percentage fell to a meager 25 percent. On the defensive side, Chicago put more pressure on the perimeter and prevented the easy lobs to Fitzpatrick, who was held to three points in the half. Brandeis's consistent outside shooting was the difference in the game, keeping Chicago at bay each time it came close.
Tonight the Maroons will get a shot at revenge when they head to the east coast for a weekend road trip against NYU and the pesky Judges.