In a dominating performance, women's basketball practically sealed its third straight win by halftime of Monday's game against Blackburn (3-7). The Maroons (6-4) built on their 20-point lead at the break, winning by a decisive 80-52 score at Ratner.
Third-year power forward Susie Gutowski led Chicago offensively with a game-high 20 points, including a perfect eight-for-eight from the free throw line, but it was tough defense that ultimately fueled the strong offensive performance.
"When we buckled down defensively Monday night, it led to easy baskets on the offensive end that gave us our lead," head coach Aaron Roussell said.
Chicago's aggressive defensive strategy, executed well on Monday, shows promise for the rest of the season as the Maroons prepare for a tough UAA schedule that begins Saturday against fifth-ranked Washington University.
"Our defensive effort hasn't been consistent but we seem to be improving with each game, and we were a bit better against Blackburn," said second-year point guard Korry Schwanz, who is tied with Gutowski as the team's best scorer (14.8 points per game).
"Once conference games start, we're going to have to play well defensively every game to compete, so that is a big focus for us right now."
First-year Nicaya Rapier led the Maroons with 11 rebounds, an area that the team has not been as weak in as originally thought. Rapier (5.7 rebounds per game in 14.1 minutes) has emerged as one of the team's best at securing both offensive and defensive boards.
Rounding out the offensive assault were first-year Nofi Mojidi with 16 points, and third-year guards Janae Winner and Taryn Holgash who added 12 and 10, respectively. The Maroons never allowed Blackburn within 20 points after the first half.
On Saturday, Chicago hosts Wash U (10-1) at 1 p.m. Though the Maroons are at a height disadvantage, a solid defense and toughness could keep the game close.
"We rebound well at times," Roussell said. "If we can get to a point where we demand this of ourselves the entire game, we will be able to play with teams like Wash U."
Though Saturday's kickoff of the UAA conference games will prove to be a challenging one like the rest of the scheduled games, Chicago is looking to hit the ground running early to carry their recent momentum through.
"Obviously we are happy with how we have played lately," Roussel said.
"It's always good to have a winning streak going into a game, but Saturday will be a whole different ball game. If we can keep the game close, though, you never know what can happen."