January 10, 2006

Women’s undefeated streak ends as battle of top-25 teams devolves into blowout

All good things must come to an end. After a perfect start to the season, women’s basketball tallied their first loss Saturday.

In the first UAA matchup of the year, third-ranked Wash U (11–1, 1–0) dominated 19th-ranked Chicago (10–1, 0–1) in an 83–59 victory that snapped the Maroons’ 10-game winning streak, the longest run in the program’s history. Second-year guard Nofi Mojidi and third-year guard Korry Schwanz were Chicago’s top scorers with 13 and 10 points on the day while fourth-year power forward Jennifer Kaiser led the Maroons with eight rebounds.

Already pumped to tip-off against a nationally ranked rival, Wash U entered the game eager to make up for a 63–56 loss Wednesday to Maryville (8–4, 1–0 SLIAC).

“They were very ready to play,” head coach Aaron Roussell said. “Coach [Nancy] Fahey had them ready to go after their loss.”

Mojidi opened the scoring with a pair of layups, and Chicago held a brief 8–6 lead before Washington fourth-year guard Kelly Manning’s layup sparked the Bears offense. Wash U exploded for 16 straight points, putting the game permanently out of the Maroons’ reach. A three-pointer from first-year Chicago guard Alex Leach finally broke the Bears’ momentum.

“They made their run, and we didn’t make ours to counter it,” Roussell said. “We knew that both teams are very high powered and that it was going to be a game of runs.”

The Bears went into the half with a 38–22 cushion and opened the second with an 11-point run, shutting down Chicago’s offense. With 7:51 to go in the half, Wash U pushed its lead to a game-high 34 points with a 73–39 score.

Normally the ones applying the pressure of a fast-paced game, the Maroons couldn’t keep up with the fast-break approach and hustle of the Bears.

“That’s the way they play,” Roussell said. “I think they’re the one team in our league that gets out on the break better than we do. They just executed and did it a lot better.”

Outrun and outrebounded 49–36, the Maroons were beaten at their own game while Wash U managed to capitalize on Chicago’s weakest link, lack of height. The Bears also conceded only three free-throw shots, while limiting Chicago’s passing game to 11 assists against 20 turnovers, for complete control of the game.

The Bears focused on neutralizing returning All-American fourth-year forward Susie Gutowski with two defenders playing her physically, and they succeeded in limiting her to only four shots. Gutowski dropped to second on the team after the week’s two games with 13.0 points per game.

“I think the scouting report is out on Susie,” Roussell said. “That’s what she’s going to see the rest of the year.

“We didn’t respond as quickly as we should have to that game plan, but she’s too good of a passer to let teams do that and to let teams throw her around.”

With Gutowski shut down, second-year guard Nofi Mojidi and third-year guard Korry Schwanz provided the bulk of Chicago’s offense, bringing home 13 and 10 points. Mojidi leads the team in scoring through Monday’s game with 13.4 points per game. Schwanz, who has been at her three-year best from the outside, is third in the category with 12.1, netting a .500 shooting percentage, .553 three-point accuracy, and .941 free-throw percentage.

The Maroons jumped right back into play Monday night, getting back on track with an easy 78–58 win at Benedictine (4–7).

“Very important. We saw what Wash did after a loss, and you want to come with that same intensity after a loss,” Roussell said. “I told the kids this morning, a loss isn’t a complete loss if you learn something from it. We needed to learn some lessons, and Wash taught us a few lessons. We used those lessons tonight to get it done.”

Schwanz (15), Mojidi (13), and fourth-year point guard Janae Winner (11) each recorded double-digit points to lead the scoring efforts. Though both Gutowski and second-year swingman Nicaya Rapier didn’t reach that mark, they combined for a big 18 rebounds to go along with 17 points.

The battle of the boards was the big difference in Monday’s game, as Chicago went from a 13-rebound deficit against Wash U to a plus-21 margin against Benedictine. The Maroons did hurt themselves with 26 turnovers, though half of them came from non-regulars.

“Rebounding was definitely a focus,” Roussell said. “That was the best thing to come about, but the effort still wasn’t perfect. We didn’t end the game early like we had a chance. Benedictine came out very focused, and they came back.

“In a lot of ways it was like our first 10 games. When we did play well, we controlled.”

Chicago has only league play against the tough UAA left. First up is a road trip to Case (7–4, 1–0) in Cleveland this Friday before traveling to Emory (9–2, 0–1) in Atlanta on Sunday. The league promises to be at its best this year with only one team playing sub-.500 ball and four of the teams voted into the top 25.

“There’s no reason to think we can’t still get some great things done this year. We just have to come out and play,” Roussell said. “You can lose games, you just have to make sure you learn your lessons.”