SPORTS

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January 31, 2006

Passing, post woes still puzzling women’s basketball

Women’s basketball may have been perfect in the non-conference schedule, but with the offensive chemistry lacking, the now unranked Maroons find themselves halfway through the UAA schedule and looking up at four strong teams.

Women’s basketball (14–4, 3–4) rallied Friday night for a 65–61 comeback win against Carnegie Mellon (5–13, 0–7) but lacked the spark to close out Sunday’s effort, as the team fell 66–57 to 23rd-ranked Rochester (14–4, 4–3). Top scorers on the weekend included second-year guard Nofi Mojidi at 13.5 points per game, fourth-year small forward Susie Gutowski with 13, and third-year shooting guard Korry Schwanz with 11.

No longer surprising anyone with their fast-break offense, the Maroons’ predictable passing has produced unacceptably high turnover totals. Now needing a way to put some pop back into their ball distribution, they’re preparing to buckle down for the regular season’s last seven games.

“You start to see that wall coming, and you either hit it or get through it,” head coach Aaron Roussell said.

The win against Carnegie was Chicago’s lone victory of a four-game homestand, and for a while it looked like the Tartans would even snap a 38-game losing streak in conference play. They entered the half leading 35–32 after sinking seven shots in the paint with 11 minutes to go. Just after the break, the visitors lost the lead but got it back and managed to extend it to a six-point margin with 6:40 left in the game.

With the game at do-or-die time, Gutowski asserted herself for six points in less than two minutes to tie the game at 59 with 4:45 remaining on the clock. Limited to 10 minutes inthe opening frame because of foul trouble, Gutowski made up for lost time, netting 12 of her 18 points on the day in the second half.

Mojidi kept up Chicago’s momentum with a layup to secure the lead with 4:08 remaining, while fourth-year forward Jenn Kaiser delivered the Maroons’ final blow, nailing two free throws in the final three seconds to close out the squad’s sixth come-from-behind victory of the season.

“Our biggest struggles as of late have been more mental than physical,” Schwanz said. “So much of this game is about giving effort and being mentally tough, and we’re not always consistent there.”

It was clear that the squad would need a cleaner game to compete with Rochester on Sunday. The Yellowjackets rolled into town looking to bounce back after getting roughed up by third-ranked Wash U (16–2, 6–1).

The game opened with the Maroons playing some of their best defense of the year. After leading the charge to the post Friday, Gutowski did some damage on the other end of the court Sunday. Pulling down eight defensive rebounds in the first half and grabbing 12 on the day, Gutowski led a Chicago defense that stopped Rochester from collecting a single offensive rebound before the break.

“I thought defensively that was the best half of basketball that we’ve played all year,” Roussell said. “Rochester’s the best offensive rebounding team in the conference.”

The Yellowjackets average 42.8 total rebounds per game on the season, beating out opponents by an 8.5 margin, but they were outrebounded 47–32 Sunday.

A Mojidi free throw and a trey from Kaiser gave Chicago an early 4–0 advantage to open the game. Rochester then countered and took the lead for an eight-minute stretch, but second-year forward Nicaya Rapier’s layup with 7:32 left put the Maroons ahead 16–15 and for the rest of the half.

“You like to think that you have more than a five point lead at that point,” Roussell said. “It felt like we outplayed them by more than just five points in the first half.”

With her team down 29–24, Rochester third-year point guard Emily Bango’s bomb from downtown got things going in the second for the Yellowjackets, but the lead went back and forth for most of the remainder of the game. With 5:24 left, Bango banked a layup, sparking an 18–7 run that put Rochester up for good.

“We just didn’t execute our offense like we’re capable of,” Schwanz said. “We forced things, didn’t get as many good looks as we could have, and gave up some big shots on the defensive end without responding with good shots of our own.”

Teamwork and ball movement made the big difference between a stellar first half and the unraveling at the end when the Maroons tried too hard to turn the game around and began to rush low-percentage shots. Chicago’s three starting guards combined for 15 turnovers, shutting down any offensive movement.

“It’s when it comes down to the important plays that we’re each trying to make something happen, changing our game,” Gutowski said.

The Maroons will have a chance for revenge this Friday when they travel to the Yellowjackets’ home court before heading to Pittsburgh to face Carnegie Sunday.