January 11, 2005

Suffocating defense earns women first win over Wash U in 16 years

Having battled back from a commanding 14-point deficit against fifth-ranked Washington, Chicago found itself down by two and called timeout with 12 seconds remaining. After the Maroons couldn't find a clear look from three-point range, second-year point guard Korry Schwanz sank a short jumper seconds before the end of regulation to send the game into overtime.

Third-year guard Janae Winner's layup with 39 seconds left in the extra session put the Maroons up for good, and first-year power forward Nicaya Rapier sunk two free throws with five seconds left to clinch Saturday's game at Ratner, 70-67.

The dramatic overtime showdown, which had the 500 fans jumping out of their seats with excitement, marked the first Chicago win over Wash U in 32 games since the 1988-1989 season and the fourth-straight win overall for the Maroons.

The game was a fast paced, back-and-forth affair with Wash U (10-2, 0-1 UAA) opening up a quick 11-2 lead. The Maroons (7-4, 1-0) quickly recovered and matched the Bears' tempo. After a free throw completed Schwanz's four-point play, a pair at the line by first-year Nofi Mojidi tied the game at 17 halfway through the first half.

When the Bears pulled ahead 39-25 at halftime, it seemed as if things could only get worse for the Maroons. Instead, Chicago took advantage of the game's fast pace. After going on a 10-minute 18-3 run to start the half, the Maroons were leading by one.

"I liked the pace of the game. I actually felt this was a major key to us being able to win the game. I think a lot of people thought we needed to slow down and relax a bit, but we felt if we could keep the pace going we would be in good shape," said head coach Aaron Roussell, who has emphasized a fast-break offense in his first year with the team. "Our girls have worked hard at getting into good condition, which paid off tremendously on Saturday."

The drama continued with 6:02 left on the clock when Chicago's star player, third-year Susie Gutowski, fouled out. With her gone, the rest of the team picked up the slack.

"Susie is one of the best players in the conference, so it definitely hurt us," said Roussell of Gutowski, who finished with six points, three rebounds, and three assists. "But their defense was so heavily concentrated on stopping her that once she was out, I don't think they knew what to do against some of our other players."

Winner stepped up, scoring 17, including a back-to-back jumper and three-pointer with just over two minutes left in regulation. Schwanz added 12 points, including her jump shot to send the game into overtime.

Rapier was on fire in overtime, and almost single-handedly sealed the win for the Maroons. She scored a critical 9 of Chicago's 11 overtime points, and 17 total for the game, tying Winner as the game's high scorer.

Rapier also demonstrated the strength and timing that have made her the team's most prolific rebounder this season, pulling down 11 boards, including one with eight seconds left to finish Wash U off.

Though the Maroons often depend on Gutowski for strong offense and clutch plays, learning to win without her presence late in the game could be beneficial to the team down the line.

"It was almost a good thing when she got in foul trouble earlier in the game, because it built our confidence in being able to succeed with her out," Roussell said. "Nicaya stepped up huge and really played tough at the end in place of Susie."

"The win will give us more confidence," Winner said. "It's funny because I think our team was the only one who thought we could actually do it. As a team, we've talked a lot about what we can accomplish, but until now, we haven't had too many cases where we've backed that up."