SPORTS

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February 9, 2010

Offense shines in women's basketball's wins over Rochester, Emory

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It’s easy to understand why the women’s basketball team was upset with itself for losing in overtime at Rochester in a game where Chicago held a five-point lead late in regulation. This weekend, they put that anger to good use and earned convincing wins against both Emory and Rochester.

Chicago (15–5, 7–2 UAA) crushed Emory (2–7, 9–11) 82–51 on Friday night and then earned their revenge against the Yellowjackets with a 73–64 victory over Rochester (15–5, 5–4).

Friday’s contest was never in doubt. The Maroons jumped out in front of the Eagles early and never let up. Chicago led 15–3 after just five minutes and continually extended that margin throughout the first half, and the Maroons entered the break with a 53–23 advantage.

One reason why Chicago was able to score so many points in the first half was an effective fast-break offense that hasn’t always been in view this season.

“In the past, we have not really been a fast-break team; even in the earlier parts of the season, [head coach Aaron Roussell] would encourage us to push the tempo of the game,” second-year guard Meghan Herrick said. “Recently we have really stepped up that portion of our game, and when the opportunity arises, we try to get an easy basket.”

That improved transition game was catalyzed by a huge first-half rebounding margin as the Maroons collected 31 boards against Emory’s 15.

A short shift by Chicago’s starters at the beginning of the second period extended the lead to 44 and put the Maroons on pace to challenge the school record of 101 points in a game before Chicago emptied its bench in order to give lesser-used substitutes some valuable game experience.

Chicago’s most impressive individual performance belonged to standout fourth-year forward Molly Hackney who nearly achieved a triple-double in just 16 minutes of playing time. Hackney recorded 11 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists for the game.

“She easily could have had 20 [points], but was unselfish with the ball. She made the extra pass,” Roussell said. “When she plays like she did this weekend, we’re a scary team.”

Herrick led all scorers with 15 points in her 19 minutes of play while first-year guard Jenna Lillemoe enjoyed a breakout performance. She scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds.

Friday’s emphatic win provided an extra measure of confidence in advance of a game that Chicago needed little extra motivation for.

“You better believe we were coming back with a vengeance when we played Rochester this past weekend,” Herrick said. “We hate losing in general but we lost to Rochester last weekend, and it was not because they played better than us; we just did not perform as well as we should have.”

The Maroons sublimated those emotions into an excellent first half performance and another sizable halftime lead over Rochester on Sunday. Chicago led 40–17 at the intermission thanks in large part to a stifling defensive effort.

Defense has been Chicago’s biggest strength throughout the season. In fact, Chicago entered the weekend ranked eighth in Division III for field goal percentage defense at 32.4 percent. The Yellowjackets struggled to do even that well. Rochester shot just 22.9 percent from the field in the first period and missed all nine of their three-point attempts.

Rochester, however, did improve after the break and didn’t allow Chicago to have the kind of walkover that they enjoyed against Emory. Slowly eating into the Maroons’ lead down the stretch, the Yellowjackets managed to cut the final margin of victory to just nine. In truth, though, Chicago was never in very much danger of suffering what would have been a shocking collapse. Nonetheless, the Maroons’ inability to completely finish off Rochester is a reminder that Chicago still has work to do after an otherwise flawless weekend.

“We really needed to come out strong and finish them off from the start, but we came out weak and let them into the game again,” second-year forward Taylor Simpson said. “Next time, we need to be disciplined enough to have a mentality that we are not going to let up.”

Rochester forward Kate Agan was the game’s top scorer with 19 points. Chicago, on the other hand, was more balanced on offense. Eight players scored at least six points but none scored more than Herrick’s 11.

Now, the Maroons’ attention turns to a crucial road trip that features must-win games against NYU (13–7, 5–4) and Brandeis (13-6, 6–3), both of which Chicago beat earlier this season. If the Maroons win all their remaining games, they can still capture at least a share of the UAA title.

“We just have to take care of our own business,” Roussell said.