January 19, 2007

Women’s basketball pushes streak to 14 with pair of road wins

By Wayne  

Continuing the best start in school history, 11th-ranked Chicago (14–0, 3–0) routed Emory (7–6, 1–2) 81–50 last Friday, and defeated Case Western (8–6, 0–3) 71–62 Sunday in Cleveland. The wins kept the Maroons in a tie for first place in the UAA ahead of tonight’s match-up with Carnegie (6–8, 0–3) and Sunday’s titanic clash with unbeaten, second-ranked Rochester (14–0, 3–0).

After spotting the Eagles a quick six-point lead out of the gate, Chicago slammed the door with authority, rattling off a 25–0 run of its own to put the game out of reach early. The defense proved to be a wall for the Eagles, forcing nine turnovers over that span. The Maroons entered the break with a comfortable, 43–26 lead, and ended the Eagles’ hope for a second-half comeback with an 11–0 to open the final period. The game never got much closer after that.

“I was happy about how we did against Emory,” head coach Aaron Roussell said. “They are a good team, and any time we win on the road in the UAA, those are huge wins. These two road wins are a nice start for our conference play.”

Putting the clamps on Emory’s inside and outside game, Chicago held the Eagles to 29 percent shooting from the field. Meanwhile, the Maroons were more than up to the challenge, hitting 37 of their 68 field goal attempts. With first-year center Molly Hackney and her teammates manning the middle, Chicago outrebounded Emory 49 to 27, preventing second-chance opportunities for the ice-cold Eagles.

Despite all of the positive signs, turnovers continued to plague Chicago. The Maroons totaled 21 on the day, including four from first-year guard Kaitlyn Devaney.

“Even though we are playing well, we still need to get better after every game,” Roussell said. “The team definitely needs to do a better job of taking care of the basketball. It’s been a problem for us throughout the season, but I think we can improve on that.”

Leading the way for the Maroons once again, third-year guard Nofi Mojidi finished with 19 points on 9 of 12 shooting, while Hackney poured in 13 points and eight rebounds. Fourth-year Korry Schwanz and third-year Nicaya Rapier racked up double figures as well with 12 and 10 points. Second-year Alex Leach dished out seven assists, a season high for any player on the women’s team.

While the end result was the same, Sunday’s trip to Case proved tougher than expected as. Unlike Emory, the Spartans showed themselves capable of hanging around for more than just a few possessions. The Maroons fell behind 9–2 during the opening minutes, but started working together to gather a 31–30 lead at the half. The second stanza was an improvement—as Chicago accrued a 48-–42 lead with 10:23 remaining in the game, but the lead never got too comfortable. Nursing a six-point advantage when Case first-year guard Ashleigh Tondo drained a triple with 2:48 to go to cut the lead to 61–58, Chicago put the lid on the contest in the final minutes, closing the game out on a 10–4 run.

Turnovers were a problem once again, as Chicago lost the ball 21 times over the course of the game. But with both teams struggling to make baskets from the floor, free throws turned out to be the game-breaker for the Maroons. Chicago capitalized on 24 of the 29 attempted free throws, while Case only sank 12 of 22 tries from the charity stripe.

“This was a tough but good win for us. I think anytime you get into UAA play, every game is a battle. Everyone thinks they can beat everyone else in our league. Especially since we are undefeated, teams are going to try to get the better of us.”

Mojidi led the scoring once again with 20 points, followed by Schwanz with 17. Rapier recorded her second double-double of the season, notching up 14 points to go along with 10 boards. Mojidi also put up a dazzling defensive performance, racking up an impressive seven steals and a team-high four assists. Schwanz went 10 for 10 on foul shots, including a number of key free throws in the second half.

“Nofi and Korry have been carrying us all season,” Coach Roussell said. “I always expect a lot out of our players, and Korry’s 10-for-10 shooting at the line was an important part of our victory.”

The Maroons will go for their 15th straight win tonight against the Tartans at Beach Night. Carnegie has lost to its three league contests this season by an average of 20 points, but in a league as deep as the UAA, any team is capable of pulling off an upset.

“We had a very close game last year with Carnegie, so both teams are probably feeling pretty confident. We are expecting a great game on Friday.”