It was a weekend of twos for women’s basketball: two conference games, two sluggish starts, two second half surges, two big comebacks. The big exception? Only one win.
Struggling throughout with inconsistent play on both sides of the court, the Maroons (12–4, 3–2 UAA) went one-and-one over a two-game hitch. After falling 60–54 to Brandeis (12–4, 3–2) on Friday in Boston, Chicago rebounded and pulled out a 72–68 upset of eighth-ranked NYU (13–3, 2–3) in New York Sunday.
As action got underway in Beantown, the Maroons couldn’t buy a bucket or a defensive stop, and Brandeis made them pay for it. The South Siders hit only two field goals in the first 10 minutes of the game, while the red-hot Judges jumped out to a quick 22–9 lead.
With their offense stalled and their defense overwhelmed, Chicago could only watch as the Judges, paced by fourth-year guard Jamie Capra’s 5–9 first-half shooting, piled up 40 points in the opening stanza, giving them a 13 point lead as the teams took to the locker rooms at halftime.
“It was one of the most disappointing halves I think that we’ve had in my four years,” head coach Aaron Roussell said. “I felt like our kids were ready; I felt like our kids were excited. Brandeis was desperate, but I just didn’t feel like we played well or competed.”
Competing wasn’t an issue for the Maroons in the second half, though. In sharp contrast to the first period, Chicago came out firing on all cylinders, generating layups inside and draining shots from outside. Brandeis’s lead got thinner and thinner until third-year guard Alex Leach sunk a three ball with 8:54 remaining to give the Maroons a 46–43 lead and cap off a 19–3 run.
That got the Judges’ attention, and several quick baskets got the home squad back in the game and back on top, 50–47, with 5:15 to go.
Unable to hit from the field for the rest of the game, Brandeis managed to go 10–14 from the stripe over the last five minutes to hold off the Maroons and secure the victory.
“They were putting it on the floor looking to get fouled, and we fouled them-or we got called for fouls,” Roussell said.
Five of those last 10 free throws came from Capra, who had 23 points on the night to lead all scorers. Fourth-year guard Nofi Mojidi gave Chicago a 14-point effort and Leach chipped in 12 as the team fell by a final of 60–56.
After taking Saturday off, the Maroons looked like they would begin Sunday’s game at NYU with more of the same. Mojidi and Leach missed layups to start the contest, and the talented Violets got three easy baskets in the early going to put NYU up 6–0 right off the bat.
Finding their rhythm and settling down, the Maroons got back into the game and kept it close through much of the period, even taking a 21–19 lead after Mojidi and second-year forward Molly Hackney scored two quick buckets with five minutes left in the half. But NYU climbed right back in the driver’s seat, and following the hot hand of third-year forward Jessica McEntee, built up a 35–27 advantage before the break.
“We were down eight, but I felt like we were in a good spot,” Roussell said. “We were ready to make a run at them.”
Wasting no time, Chicago started cutting into the Violets’ lead as soon as the second half got underway. Second-year guard Micaela White made two short shots and two free throws, Leach hit twice from the land of plenty, and with 11 minutes to go, the Maroons had snatched the lead, 46–45.
Although Chicago pushed their margin to as many as 10 points, persistent pressure from NYU narrowed the gap, and a couple McEntee free throws with 10 seconds left got the Violets within one. The home team fouled two Maroons, hoping for one last chance, but Leach and second-year guard Jamie Stinson converted three of four from the line in the waning seconds to ice the game for the Maroons.
“I felt like we were being tested yesterday,” Roussell said. “And I think we passed that test.”
Once again, Chicago got big games out of Mojidi and Leach, who put up 14 and 12 points apiece. Leach’s play over the last five games has been a highlight for the Maroons, and for her efforts, she’s been given a starting spot.
“She’s been great. She played really well this weekend, in every way,” Roussell said of Leach. “She’s shut people down defensively. She’s scored points, but she’s helped other people score as well.”
Hackney was the high-scoring Maroon, with 16 points on 6–8 shooting. McEntee secured a double-double by pouring in 25 points and grabbing 14 boards for the Violets.
Back on the road next weekend, Chicago will get a chance to see the best and the worst the UAA has to offer. On Friday, the Maroons play Carnegie (7–9, 0–5), the only team that’s still winless in conference play. Chicago then heads to Rochester for a Sunday date with the 12th-ranked, league-leading, Yellowjackets (15–1, 5–0).