February 20, 2009

Two wins will keep Chicago in NCAA race

Women’s basketball will get to make its case for a postseason bid this weekend when they play in front of a home crowd for the last time this season.

Fresh from a two-game sweep on the road last weekend, the Maroons (16–6, 7–4) have momentum on their side as they return to Ratner. With their chances of a repeat UAA title diminished, the Maroons could use statement games tonight and Sunday to bolster their odds of gaining an at-large NCAA bid.

Chicago would make waves today by knocking off fifth-ranked Rochester (20–2, 9–2) for a second time and will have a chance to put up big numbers against a struggling Carnegie (5–17, 0–11) later in the weekend. The South Siders have enjoyed success against both visiting squads this season, toppling the then-first-ranked Yellowjackets in New York January 23 and routing the Tartans 66–38 on their last trip to Pittsburgh.

Preparing for their home finales, the Maroons have trust in the progress they’ve made thus far.

“I think at this point in the season it’s just a lot of fine-tuning,” head coach Aaron Roussell said. “We got back to a lot of fundamental stuff this week; we’re just trying to stay loose and trying to stay sharp.”

In their first matchup with Rochester, the Maroons gave the Yellowjackets their worst defeat of the year in a 71–51 win. Chicago scored 20 points more than Rochester’s UAA–leading 50.5 points allowed per game and held the team 15 points below its own scoring average of 66.4. Turning in another complete game is key if the Maroons want to pull another upset.

“I think we played very good defense, and then on the offensive end we moved very well and played very well together,” Roussell said of the last Rochester meeting. “We’ve been trying just to replicate what we did last time, and hopefully that will be enough on Friday.”

In their first head-to-head with Carnegie, the Maroons earned their second largest scoring margin of the season as they won by 28 points, even if the box score might have exaggerated Chicago’s advantage over the Tartans.

“I think we played very well last time, but I know the score kind of got away from the game. It was a much closer game than the score would indicate,” Roussell said.

With Wash U and Rochester boasting 10 and nine respective conference wins, the Maroons are all but out of the race for an outright conference title. Chicago would need the Bears to lose out their schedule and the Yellowjackets to drop two of three in order to win a share of the UAA crown.

Chicago can still make a case for NCAA tournament selection, especially if it has two wins over an elite team like Rochester. The Maroons are currently fourth in the standings in a conference that sent four squads to the dance last season.

“I think the good thing is it’s still in our hands,” Roussell said. “I think we’ve dug ourselves a hole a little bit, but I do believe if we win all three games we’ll have more than a good chance of getting in. We already have six losses, and that’s usually kind of the outside. If you have six losses, you have to do well somewhere else, and we’ve obviously played a tough schedule, which I think will help us.”