December 2, 2013

Second half costs Maroons win against Carthage

Chicago (3–2) lost 80–65 to the Carthage Lady Reds (5–1) Sunday, following a second-half offensive explosion in which Carthage put up 52 points to overcome a 40–28 halftime deficit.

While the Maroons only committed 10 turnovers that day and kept the Lady Reds’ defense in check throughout the first half, a subpar second-half shooting performance prevented them from holding on to the lead.

The game showed early indications that it could turn into an offensive slugfest. Both teams shot impressively from beyond the arc in the first half (Carthage went 4–8 from deep, while Chicago was 7–16), and there were several lead changes.

The Lady Reds scored on three consecutive possessions to build a 17–10 lead in the first few minutes, but the Maroons responded with a 15–1 run of their own in which they forced seven turnovers and drained three three-pointers to seize a 25–18 advantage.

Chicago looked to tighten its grip on the game going into the interval, with three field goals by fourth-year guard Julie Muguira extending the team’s lead to 15 at one point. As both teams headed to the locker room, the Maroons could take pride in their execution, committing only three turnovers and seven personal fouls en route to a double-digit lead.

“I thought we played outstanding defense in the first half, and we were really controlling the pace of the game up until halftime. Carthage made some adjustments at the break, though, and I think we let them be comfortable on offense, [so] they were able to get better looks in the second half,” Muguira said, who turned in another strong performance with 19 points and six rebounds.

Carthage’s Kristi Schmidt and Stephanie Kuzmanic engineered offensive drives to ignite a 26–5 run in the first eight minutes of the second half as the Maroons’ shooting went cold.

Chicago battled back to retake the lead 54–53 on a layup from third-year forward Ali Shaw, but then Kuzmanic took over. She scored her team’s next nine points to put the game out of reach for the hosts, and Carthage saw out the victory. At the end of the game, Schmidt and Kuzmanic had amassed 25 and 30 points respectively, with 41 of the pair’s points scored in the second half.

Despite the disappointing finish on Sunday, the team is confident that, if it maintains the level it reached in the first half, big results will follow.

“The most encouraging part of the game was the way we played in the first half,” Muguira said. “We weren’t just competing and staying with Carthage; we were controlling the pace and forcing them into difficult situations on defense. If we can play that same way for all 40 minutes, I think we can be a really tough team to beat.”

“With each game there is visible improvement, and that is always encouraging. The season is a process, and we continue to get better every day,” head coach Carissa Sain Knoche said.

The Maroons will have more opportunities to improve later this week, as they face Wheaton and Illinois Wesleyan.

“Both Wheaton and Illinois Wesleyan are solid programs, which are fun for us to play against.  Each team will require a different set of adjustments for, but overall, I’m sure defense will be key for us,” said fourth-year guard Maggie Ely.

The Wheaton game will be away tonight at 5:30 p.m., while the Illinois Wesleyan game will tip off at 1 p.m. on Saturday in Ratner.