SPORTS

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February 17, 2009

Following home loss, Maroons respond with pair of road wins

Valentine’s Day weekend proved to be a sweet one for women’s basketball as the Maroons pulled out successive road victories in UAA conference play.

On the heels of a crucial home loss to NYU, the Maroons soundly defeated Case (10–12, 3–8) 81–72 before grabbing a 67–61 win over Emory (12–10, 3–8).

The 25th-ranked Maroons pounced on the Spartans right from the get-go Friday night, taking an early 6–0 lead and forcing a Case timeout just 70 seconds into the contest. The break, however, did very little to slow the visiting team’s offensive outburst as Chicago ran their lead to 16–5 after six minutes of play.

Case fought back into the game with an 8–0 run to narrow the gap to 26–24 at the seven-minute mark. Chicago, however, finished the half strong by continually attacking the basket to maintain a 44–33 lead heading into the break.

While the Maroons dominated the glass, pounding the Spartans 49–29 in the rebounding category, and shot better from the field, converting 47.5 percent of their attempts to their opponent’s dismal 39.3-percent mark, they never effectively pulled away.

“We knew we were going to be able to score against them,” fourth-year guard Alexandra Leach said. “But they came right back at us and we did not do a good job of stopping them defensively.”

The Spartans stayed in the game by converting nearly 46 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc. Chicago’s struggles with turnovers also contributed as Case tallied 14 steals en route to 19 turnovers by the Maroons.

Down by as many as 12 early in the second half, the Spartans once again cut the margin down to 59–58 with 10 minutes remaining.

Chicago countered by engineering a 16–5 run in the next seven minutes to go up 75–63. Despite poor free throw shooting down the stretch, the Maroons were able to close out 81–72.

First-year guard Bryanne Halfhill scored 22 points while grabbing seven boards and dishing out five assists, and third-year forward Molly Hackney added 20 points, 11 rebounds, and two blocks.Sunday afternoon’s trip to Emory posed a more difficult test for Chicago, who escaped with a 67–61 win in the close contest.

Just like the Case game, the Maroons jumped on their opponent early, taking an 11–3 after five-and-a-half minutes.

A quick 6–0 run at the start of the second half allowed the Eagles to take their first lead in over 22 minutes, 39–37, but Leach provided a timely answer by burying a trey to give the Maroons a one-point edge with 17 minutes to go.

Five minutes into the second stanza, the Maroons widened their advantage to seven, holding a 46–39 lead on another Leach three-point shot.

With Emory on the ropes and struggling from beyond the arc, the Maroons could have seized control of the game.

“We couldn’t pull away because we couldn’t stop them in transition and gave them easy baskets in the paint,” Leach said.

Emory’s post presence helped keep the hosts in the game as the Eagles racked up 14 offensive boards.

With just over five minutes left, the referee’s whistle spelled trouble for Chicago. Up by just two at 59–57, the Maroons were forced to send Leach to the bench after the veteran was called for three fouls over a span of 30 seconds. Fouling out with 4:51 left, Leach finished with 16 points.

“My last foul was a definite game-changer. The refs should not have had that kind of influ ence in a close game like that,” Leach said. “I think the team was upset with the call, but we did a great job of staying focused and not letting that affect us. We played through it and came out on top.”

The frenzied second half included four lead-changes and four ties, most notably a 61–61 deadlock with about three minutes to play. Each time Emory stormed back to take the lead, Chicago answered with a three. The final trey came from Halfhill with 1:15 to play to send Chicago up 64–61.

With Chicago nursing a three-point lead and 26 seconds to go, Hackney hit two free throws to make it a two-possession game at 66–61.

Chicago survived a huge game from Emory’s fourth-year forward Lora Turner, who had 25 points on 11–17 shooting and 10 rebounds, by distributing the wealth. 10 Maroons scored in the contest, with two in double-figures, and three more tallying eight points apiece.

In the upcoming weekend, women’s basketball plays host to UAA powerhouse second-ranked Rochester (20–2, 9–2) on Friday night and Carnegie Sunday afternoon (0–11, 5–17), with 13th-ranked Washington University lurking in the distance on the final weekend of the season.

“We have two big weekends where we will need to be at the top of our game,” said Leach. “We must be willing to outhustle and outwork our opponents for 40 minutes.”