After a tough 72–66 loss to Carroll last week and two road wins, women’s basketball is back in the swing of things.
Chicago opened its holiday weekend with a 56–46 win over Manchester (3–2) on the first day of the St. Mary’s Thanksgiving Classic, and went on to beat the host Belles 73–64 (2–3) on day two of the tournament.
“It was good to get back on track,” said head coach Aaron Roussell. “We felt we got outworked and played very poorly at Carroll, and we were forced to sit and think about it for a full week. We got back to playing defense like we are supposed to, and I am very proud of our players for that.”
Drawing first blood in Friday’s match against the Spartans, Chicago went up early on a three-pointer from first-year guard Bryanne Halfhill. Third-year forward Molly Hackney followed with a quick layup to give the Maroons an early 5–0 lead. Manchester battled back to take a 11–10 lead, but a layup from first-year guard Megan Herrick with 9:44 remaining in the first put Chicago on top to stay.
Coming back from the break with a 27–18 advantage, the Maroons ballooned their lead to 48–35 when third-year guard Kaitlin Devaney hit a trey with 8:03 to play. Regrouping after a time-out, Manchester out-scored Chicago 9–2 in a five-minute stretch to cut the lead down to five. Despite shooting just 4–9 from the free throw line late in the game, the South Siders managed to hold off the Spartans for the win.
Chicago shot 47.9 percent from the field and held Manchester to just 21.7 percent—a season-best performance for the squad’s defense. The Maroons also out-rebounded the Spartans 55–29.
“If we are going to go anywhere this year we have to be a lockdown defensive team,” Roussell said. “We have all the tools for a great defense, and when we combine that with the level of effort we saw this weekend, then we will not be a fun team for anyone to play against. Our defense and rebounding will be the bread and butter of this program, and hopefully our offense can catch up to that level soon.”
Leading her team in scoring, Halfhill went four-for-six from the floor to pick up 10 points, and grabbed six rebounds.
In Saturday’s contest with the Belles, Chicago went up early and never trailed. Six points from Halfhill in the game’s first 10 minutes helped, and despite tying it up numerous times, St. Mary’s could never punch through. The score stood at 15–15 with 10:18 remaining, when Devaney’s free throw gave the Maroons a permanent advantage.
Chicago started to give themselves a dominant lead with a three-and-a-half minute, 10–2 run. During the scoring burst, third-year guard Micaela White picked up four points in under 20 seconds. St. Mary’s had an answer in the form of first-year guard Patsy Mahoney, who put up seven points in the half’s last three minutes to trim down the Maroons’ margin, and the half ended 34–26.
The momentum swung back Chicago’s way coming out of the lockers, as Halfhill drained a three once the action got back underway. Despite a 16-point second half from fourth-year forward Erin Newsom, St. Mary’s couldn’t climb back within five points. Back-to-back jumpers from Devaney gave the Maroons their largest margin of the afternoon, 54–39 with 10:12 to play.
The South-Siders win came on 43.1 percent field goal shooting, and they maintained their characteristic advantage in rebounding. After struggling from the charity stripe against Manchester, Chicago hit an improved but still below-average 12–19.
Earning a slot on the all-Tournament team, Halfhill again led her squad in scoring with 16 points. Joining her on the all-Tournament team was White, who posted 14 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and dished out four assists. Hackney led the team in rebounds with 14.
After regaining their footing against Manchester and St. Mary’s, Chicago will face a tougher test December 15 when they host sixth-ranked Illinois Wesleyan (3–0), the Maroons’ first ranked opponent this season. Chicago plays six games between now and the beginning of winter quarter, starting with a home appearance against Wheaton (2–2) tomorrow night.