SPORTS

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January 16, 2009

Home games against Emory, Case are must-wins after Wash U loss

With the first game of 2009 down as a loss, women’s basketball is looking to rebound—in every sense of the word—against Emory and Case Western this weekend.

Saturday’s 54–50 loss to Wash U (9–3, 1–0) at home has made a strong response this weekend vital, as the Maroons (9–3, 0–1) look to protect their home court in a conference where road wins can be tough to find.

“Any time you’re playing at home, it’s a must-win,” head coach Aaron Roussel said. “I’m anxious and excited to see how our kids mentally bounce back after Saturday. I’ve said this before after losses: How we come out on Friday will say a lot about the character of our team.”

To win this weekend, Chicago will need to rebound in the most literal sense, a statistical category that cursed them against Wash U on Saturday. Once boasting the nation’s fifth-highest rebounding margin, the Maroons collected just 39 boards against the Bears’ 48, allowing the visitors multiple second chances on offense.

“It’s obviously really disappointing and bit surprising the way we just didn’t have the rebounding effort that we normally can count on,” Roussell said. “We need to make sure we get back to solidifying [rebounding]. We need to know that we can count on that, but we need to show other teams that we’re going to be a force on the boards.”

The South Siders’ three losses this season have also marked the team’s three lowest rebounding totals of the year, and the Maroons will need as many rebounds as they can collect when Emory’s vaunted offense comes to town.

Averaging 77 points per game, 15th-best in the country, Emory (9–3, 0–1) has found consistent scoring in the perimeter-post combination of fourth-year forward Lora Turner and third-year guard LeShonda Lillard, who have combined for over 27 points a night this season.

“Lora Turner is about as good as they get in our league. She’s been playing very well, and she’s been seemingly scoring at will,” Roussell said.

Coming off a blowout loss to Case (8–4, 1–0) last Saturday, the Eagles are looking for a repeat of their 2007 trip to Ratner, when they defeated the Maroons 69–63.

“They’ve always been a dangerous team,” Roussell said. “They had a lot of close games and they beat a lot of top teams last year, and there’s no reason to think they’re not going to be a better team this year.”

While the Maroons have emphasized defensive pressure all season, Saturday’s loss also marked one of the team’s best defensive games of the year. Holding the Bears to just 33–percent shooting on the afternoon, Chicago didn’t allow a single field goal for the game’s final 8:11. A similar performance Friday night could go a long way against an Emory team that has shot just under 45 percent this season.

Defense, meanwhile, hasn’t been a strong suit for the Eagles, who gave up a season-high 90 points to a Case team that had averaged 64 heading into last weekend.

Although the Spartans don’t boast the same offensive numbers as the Eagles, Chicago’s Sunday opponents come to town with a triple threat in scoring, comprised of third-year Ashleigh Tondo and second-year Caitlin Henry, both guards, and first-year forward Erin Hollinger. An All-UAA First Team selection a season ago, Tondo has averaged 14.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 4.75 assists this year.

In its win over Emory last weekend, Case had five scorers in double figures, including a career-high 22 for Hollinger.

A team that relies on zone defense, the Spartans could focus on forcing the Maroons to the outside, a strategy that caused problems for the Chicago offense against Wash U. The South Siders shot just 13 percent from three-point land in the loss, but Roussell said that his team would be looking for more movement and patience to give the offense a boost this weekend.

“There are times where we get caught standing and watching,” Roussell said. “Obviously, we have some talented individuals; sometimes when we get some players the ball, we stand and watch and let them do their thing, whereas we need to make sure we get back to moving ourselves, and the basketball, and put pressure on defense to have to defend our offense.”

A strong performance this weekend will be vital for a team that needed a perfect record at home last season to win the UAA. With their win over the weekend, ever-dangerous Wash U is one of just three undefeated teams remaining in conference. More imposing, however, could be the 3–0 record that top-ranked Rochester (12–0) has already accrued in conference play.

While the start isn’t ideal, the Maroons are confident that more complete offensive performances will make Chicago a threat for the conference crown.

“The scary thing is that if we ever get all of kids playing well together on same nights, we’re going to be really tough team play against, especially a really tough team to beat,” Roussell said. “I think we just need to get to a point where all of our kids are clicking at the same time, and once that happens, we’ll be a very dangerous team on the offensive end like we already have been on the defensive end.”