SPORTS

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January 13, 2009

Bears take early lead in race for UAA title

After finishing their non-conference play on a hot streak, women’s basketball stumbled Saturday in its conference debut.

Playing host to Wash U (9–3, 1–0 UAA) in a rematch of last season’s UAA championship game, the 21st-ranked Maroons (9­–3, 0–1) held their own against the Bears and went into the half with a lead. However, scoring woes that have troubled the Maroons all season, along with poor rebounding down the stretch, spelled trouble as Chicago saw the visitors break a late tie to win the game 54–50.

A team that has come to rely on its defense, Chicago allowed Wash U a quick 16–9 with early mistakes on both sides of the ball. The Maroons, however, clawed back into contention, aided by nine first-half points from third-year forward Molly Hackney, whose layup with 9:00 left in the period gave the South Siders their first lead of the game at 21–20.

“We had a few defensive lapses on consecutive possessions that gave them an early lead,” head coach Aaron Roussell said. “We knew that when we fixed those it would allow us the time to get back into it.”

The lead changed three more times before the final minute of the stanza, with the Bears going ahead with under two minutes to play. Draining a three-pointer with 0:27 remaining, fourth-year guard Alex Leach made it 34–31 at the break.

Coming back from the lockers, Chicago couldn’t keep pace with Wash U baskets as the Bears went up as much as 45–39. Poor three-point shooting hampered the Maroons all afternoon against a Bears team that has struggled to defend the arc, but Chicago caught a break when Leach and first-year guard Bryanne Halfhill each sunk a three in a thirty-second stretch to tie things up again with 6:38 to play.

After the tie, the Maroons buckled down defensively and denied the Bears a field goal for the remainder of the game. However, foul trouble hampered the South Siders down the stretch, as second-year forward Karly Kasper fouled out with 2:11 left, and Chicago handed the Bears 12 tries from the charity stripe in the game’s final five minutes. Wash U capitalized by draining nine of the attempts, including two from second-year center Kelsey Robb that broke a 50–50 tie with nine seconds left.

Unable to answer the Bears with buckets of their own, the Maroons were held scoreless in the game’s final five minutes.

“We held them on some key defensive stops, but we kept giving them second looks at putting them at the line,” Roussell said.

Entering the game with the nation’s third-highest rebounding margin, the Maroons succumbed to superior rebounding by the Bears, who controlled the offensive glass down the stretch. Wash U’s 48 rebounds was the highest total Chicago has allowed to an opponent this season. Chicago’s 39 boards on the night marked the second lowest total of the season.

“We defended very well and played very well offensively in the first half,” Roussell said. “Unfortunately, rebounding led to our demise as the game wore on. Aside from the rebounding, I am happy with where our team is at, but it is unacceptable for poor rebounding to be the reason this program loses a game…. Anytime you are leading at the half and hold a team to 18 percent shooting in the second half, you should win.”

In a UAA field that features three teams in the top 25, the loss could be critical in the Maroons’ attempt at a repeat UAA title.

“We take great pride in playing well and winning at home,” Roussell said, “and now this loss puts us behind in the race for the UAA. We have been great at bouncing back from losses the last few years, though, so I trust we will play well this weekend.”

Chicago has a chance to respond this weekend as Emory (8–3, 0–1) and Case (8–4, 1–0) come to town.