After a pair of weekend splits, the women's basketball team is returning home to play the spoiler. In their final three games of the season against New York University, Brandeis University, and Washington University, the Maroons will do what they can to damage the playoff hopes of their UAA rivals.
"We have a tough road ahead of us, but we want to take advantage of the situation we're in," said head coach Jennifer Kroll. "We've got three games left, and we're looking to make the most of them and mess up the seasons of our opponents. They've all got something to lose."
The Maroons' 2-2 record over the past two weeks means that the 9-13 Maroons will finish the season with a losing record. Chicago lost to Rochester at home 56-44 on February 6, defeated Carnegie Mellon at Ratner 57-55 on February 8, lost to Emory in Atlanta 74-67 on Friday, and beat Case Western 68-49 on Sunday.
The loss against then fourth-ranked Rochester was closer than the final score indicated. The Maroons were down by only four points at halftime and held the Yellowjackets to 30.4 percent shooting for the game.
"I guess if you were only looking at the box score you would think they handled us pretty easily, but that would be pretty far from the truth," said second-year forward Susie Gutowski. "We battled with them for almost all the game."
The Yellowjackets were paced by guard Kelly Wescott, who pulled down 14 rebounds and scored 15 points. Her complete effort single handedly leading the team on a 7-2 run that put Chicago away early in the second half.
The difference for the Maroons two days later was a missed three point shot by Carnegie Mellon guard Marcia Velencia with five seconds remaining. The Maroons dominated for most of the game and led 57-38 with 5:38 to go in the second half. CMU then pulled off a 17-0 run, including 10 points from Velencia.
"I think the late run by the Tartans just shows that we don't handle pressure well. We have a freshman point guard who's never seen pressure at this level, and we have junior and seniors who are still struggling with it," Kroll said. "We did a lot better with it this past weekend, but it's definitely a problem for us."
Gutowski described the last moments of the game as "pretty hard to watch."
"They had the last possession and put up a pretty good looking three. I was just hoping we wouldn't foul or bail them out," she said.
After surviving Carnegie Mellon, the Maroons had high hopes for their final road swing of the season at Emory and Carnegie Mellon. Chicago beat Emory by 15 earlier this season and lost to Carnegie Mellon by just four.
Unfortunately the trip got off to a poor start in Atlanta. Despite having three players score double digit points and the score being tied at halftime, the Maroons couldn't build on the efforts to put the Eagles away. They were finally overwhelmed by a 10-4 run late in the second half.
"Emory just wanted that game more. They hustled after loose balls and rebounds, and that was the difference. We didn't have enough heart," Kroll said.
In Cleveland, the final road game of the year, was a down-to-the-wire victory for the Maroons. The team took apart the Spartans in the first half and never let go of the lead.
"Case was a real grudge match for us," Kroll said. "Three different people came up to me before that game and told me how the ceremony would go when Spartans guard Angie Zeuch scored her 1,000th point. No one even considered that she might not get 10 points against us. That really fired us up, and we played some great team ball against Case. They tried to come back, and we squashed them."
"They were laughing and not focused before the game. It was obvious they had no respect for us," added Gutowski. "That might have helped put the fire in our bellies. It was great not to hear any of that laughter after the game."
Chicago will close out its UAA schedule with home games against 14th ranked NYU tonight, 22nd ranked Brandeis this Sunday, and fifth ranked Washington on February 28.
The team plans to make few changes to their game plan tonight. The Maroons fell to NYU 66-59 on January 25 in a road game that was decided in the final minute.
"We're going to make subtle adjustments against the Violets. We're going to go after their transition game, and try to get to the line more," Kroll said. "We're one of the best free- throw shooting teams in the nation, and they tend to overplay. That will be key."
The Maroons hope to solve their season-long rebounding woes against Brandeis. Chicago was crushed by 19 points in Waltham on January 23, a game in which the Judges earned a 19 rebound advantage.
The Maroons will have an unusual advantage finishing out the season at home, as this will be the first visit to Ratner for all three of their opponents.
"Teams have not been shooting well coming into Ratner for the first time, and we're really going to take advantage of that," Kroll said.