January 29, 2010

Four-game win streak has women's basketball aiming high on the road

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As women’s basketball prepares for a crucial weekend on the road, optimism abounds within the team.

Since losing 34–63 to rival and conference leader Wash U nearly three weeks ago, the Maroons have been dominating opponents. They have now won four straight and are eager for another opportunity to prove themselves this weekend against Emory and Rochester.

First, the Maroons head to Atlanta tonight to play Emory, whose high-scoring attack should test Chicago’s tough defense, which is currently second in the UAA with only 54.8 points allowed per game. Head coach Aaron Roussell called Emory’s attack “explosive” and “tough to scout and defend.”

Second-year guard Bryanne Halfhill, however, has confidence in Chicago’s ability to keep up with Emory’s pace.

“I feel like they should be more worried about slowing us down,” she said.

On paper, Sunday’s game looks like the team’s biggest challenge since the Wash U game. Rochester enters the weekend with a 13–3 record overall and is sitting at third in the UAA standings with a 3–2 conference record.

This is virtually a must-win game for the Maroons if they hope to have a shot at topping Wash U for the UAA title.

“We really can’t drop one more game,” Halfhill said. “We need to play every game like it’s the national championship.”

Rochester’s style of play should look familiar to Chicago as it is very similar to that of the Maroons. Chicago and Rochester are ranked second and third, respectively, in scoring defense in the UAA, and are the top two rebounding teams in the conference.

“Rochester is always going to be a tough team to beat.... Rochester is always very good about taking what you do well from you,” Roussell said.

In order to continue their winning streak, Chicago will need to replicate their offensive success of the past four games. They have been averaging over 73 points per game during their win streak—nearly 10 points above their season average.

“Recently we have started moving the ball around in our offense which creates better shots,” second-year Meghan Herrick said.

Additionally, both Herrick and Halfhill, two of the top three scorers on the team, pointed to improved transitional play as another key to the offense’s better play.

“We have been doing really well in transition and getting easy baskets and easy steals, which is something that we were lacking in the beginning of the season,” Halfhill said.

This weekend’s contests should challenge the team’s stamina as they form the last two of four- straight road games. The big question is whether the team will show signs of fatigue—especially in Sunday’s clash at Rochester. The difficulties of trying to balance school and basketball while traveling for the second straight weekend—and right before midterms—are not lost upon Herrick.

“It is extremely exhausting…it involves a lot of time management and sleep,” she said.

This weekend should define what the ceiling on this team’s achievement is. If the Maroons are successful this weekend, they will remain at most one game behind Wash U. As they stay within reach of the Bears, the Maroons are relishing the chance to take down the league leaders in the final game of the season. Meghan Herrick’s confidence in what the result of that game will be is indicative of the belief that this winning streak has instilled in the team’s collective psyche.

“Since we’re playing with a chip on our shoulder, we would not lose to them again,” she said.