February 6, 2009

After being shut out on the road, women want redemption in rematches

Coming off a winless trek to play two top-25 ranked teams last weekend, women’s basketball will try to regain some momentum with its upcoming pair of home games.

A 71–59 roughing up by 16th-ranked NYU (16–2, 5–2 UAA) followed by a 63–53 loss to 24th-ranked Brandeis (13–4, 3–4) dropped the Maroons out of the poll from the 20th spot and lowered their record to 13–5, 4–3 on the season. With the Judges in town tonight and the Violets coming to Ratner for a Sunday matinee, Chicago has a chance to reassert itself against these UAA rivals.

“I feel like it is an advantage to turn around and face both Brandeis and NYU again so quickly,” said second-year forward Karly Kasper, who sunk a basket that brought the Maroons close to NYU at 59–54 with five minutes remaining in Friday’s game. The Violets then retaliated with a 10–1 run.

“We will certainly be playing at a different level this time around,” she added.

Third-year forward Molly Hackney, owner of the UAA’s best field goal percentage, making 56 percent of her shots from the floor, echoed Kasper’s thoughts.

“Playing Brandeis and NYU back-to-back has its benefits because those losses are fresh on our mind, and we are able to use that to motivate us this week.

“We realized that in both games we needed to play with more energy and intensity,” Hackney said. “I think that each team had different styles of play but the thing that was the same was that both teams came out with more energy, and we just couldn’t match it.”

It’s going to take motivation and tight execution to get back the wins from the trip to New York and Boston. Finding a way to contain NYU fourth-year Jessica McEntee come Sunday will be a vital point to a Maroons victory.

With a game-high 23 points against Chicago last Friday, McEntee lived up to her standard as the league’s most prolific scorer. She has posted an average of 19.1 points per game on the year, with a season best of 31 points against SUNY New Paltz.

She also spends an average of 35 minutes per game running the hardwood, which means the Maroons’ strong defense will be put to the test.

In terms of league standings and postseason hopes, each UAA matchup is critical in the relatively brief conference schedule, and there is especially little room for error after last weekend broke a four-way tie for first.

The powerhouse 17th-ranked Wash U (14–4, 6–1) could battle it out with stinging hot, third-ranked Rochester (17–1, 6–1) for the title if the Maroons stay or slip from their current place at fourth.

“It will be a battle from here on out,” Kasper said. “This weekend is especially crucial for us. It should be a telling pair of games in terms of where we hope to go with the rest of our season and how we expect to get there.”

With seven games left in the regular season, all of them conference contests, it’s a little early to be filling out NCAA bid sheets. Still, it’s that time of the year when results from other teams’ games can start to matter, making it that much harder to zero in on the task at hand.

“We need to make sure we stay focused and play our best in every contest,” Hackney said.