Having made it through the first half of the season, the women's basketball team is still struggling to solve their two big problems: putting away the close games and making the rebounding game a strength rather than a weakness.
The Maroons' struggles continued during the past two weeks, as the team dropped games at home against Case Western Reserve 66-62 on January 16, at Brandeis 82-63 last Friday, and at NYU 66-59 on Sunday. The losses bring their cumulative record to 5-10 and 1-4 in the UAA.
The lone bright spot was a 66-51 victory over Emory at home January 18, in which three Maroons scored over ten points each and the team shot 45.8 percent from the field.
"It was great to get our first conference win with the victory over Emory. Every game in this conference is very important," said first- year guard Korry Schwanz, who led the Maroons in scoring in three of the past four games and is the team leader in minutes, points and assists.
The final score of the NYU game also hid some positive signs for the Maroons, who out-rebounded their opponent for the first time since defeating Northland on December 15.
Coles Sports Center, the home court of the Violets, is said to be one of the toughest venues for road teams in Division III, and the Maroons played a close game, down by only two at halftime and remaining within four until just 43 seconds remained.
Perhaps the toughest loss for the team was against Case Western. The Maroons trailed by 6 at halftime and by as many as 18 points midway through the second frame, then nearly came all the way back after going on a 17-5 run. A layup by Schwanz put the team within one point with 22 seconds to go, but the Maroons failed to retake the lead.
"I don't think there was one critical play in the Case game. We didn't play a
good first half of basketball, which put us in too big of a hole too early," Schwanz said.
"I was proud of how our team played in the second half, because we played closer to what we're capable of. We were down by quite a big margin, but nobody gave up."
Case Western added to a series of close losses for the Maroons, who have now lost six games in which they have trailed by four points or fewer with a minute remaining. The team has averaged 53.1 points per game and allowed 54.7. Their record in games decided by ten points or fewer is 2-6.
Rebounds have also been something of a season-long issue for the team. The battle for the glass was a major factor in the Maroons' double-digit loss to Brandeis, in which a 19-point defeat was keyed by a 19-rebound advantage for the Judges.
The team also struggled with its rebounding, giving up five more boards than they earned against Case Western and four more against Emory. The team's season rebounding average dropped to 32.2 rebounds per game as a result. Opponents have 35.5 rebounds per game against the Maroons.
"Rebounding has to be a focus for us every game. Continuing to keep our opponents off the boards will be one of the major keys in our remaining games," Schwanz said.
The team will finish off a five-game road swing over the next week, facing Carnegie Mellon today in Pittsburgh, fourth ranked Rochester Sunday in New York, and non-conference foe Benedictine Tuesday in Lisle. The team is 2-7 away from Ratner.
While the Maroons hope to string together a few victories to get things going, they are being careful not to look too far ahead in a very dangerous conference.
"Every game in this league is competitive," said Schwanz. "Rochester
is one of the top teams in our conference so far this season, so we're looking to surprise them this weekend. But even though Carnegie Mellon has been off to a rough start so far this season, we're not looking past anybody."
The UAA, historically one of Division III's top conferences, is having another strong year, with 4th-ranked Rochester and 9th-ranked Washington in the Top 25, and NYU missing the 25th-ranked ranking by one vote this week.
Despite their struggles in recent weeks, Schwanz said that the team is maintaining a positive attitude as it looks towards the back half of the season.
"Our expectations were high at the beginning of the season and they're still high now. There have been some pretty big upsets in the conference so far this year and we plan on taking advantage of that," she said. "As a team we would be very disappointed with a record of .500 or below. To accomplish the goals we have this season, we'll need to finish strong."