January 5, 2012

Maroons raid Vikings to remain undefeated

Saturday can’t come soon enough for Chicago. Inter-conference play begins this weekend with the Maroons (10–0) traveling to St. Louis to take on Wash U (10–1). Chicago had one last tune-up Tuesday against the Vikings of Bethany Lutheran (1–9), and despite winning by 21 and leading by as many as 30 points throughout the night, the Maroons are adamant that they have a lot of work to do before heading to St. Louis.

Chicago started the game on a 12–2 run. Fourth-year guard Bryanne Halfhill hit two three-pointers during the opening stretch and shot 50 percent for the game from behind the arc, a welcome improvement from her 31 percent mark on the year. The game was never close after the initial burst from the Maroons, as the Vikings had difficulty scoring with any kind of consistency. A blistering and energetic Chicago defense forced 24 turnovers, many of which led to easy points in transition.

“I thought defensively, our energy was really good. I thought we really limited them and forced a lot of turnovers,” Head Coach Aaron Roussell said. “I wish we could have scored a little bit more off of those turnovers. We have to make our easy baskets, and we have to make our free throws.” Chicago was only able to shoot about 59 percent from the line.

Despite some trouble on the offensive end, Chicago was still able to put the game away early and give all players an opportunity to see the court. All 15 Maroons scored. Morgan Herrick, who had been sidelined due to her fourth knee surgery, played well in limited minutes off the bench, scoring nine points and snagging three rebounds. She even stepped back and knocked down a long three-pointer as the game was winding down. Herrick’s minutes will not be limited against Wash U, Roussell said.

“Today was just getting her bearings straight, and to be fair, I think she was the best player on the court,” Roussell said. “I’m really happy with how she’s responding to the treatment. She’s done everything right and you saw the product of that today.”

A scary moment came in the second half when second-year center Christiane Murray re-aggravated an ankle injury. Murray came out of the game briefly, but returned shortly thereafter.

“I just wanted to push through. I’ve hurt this ankle multiple times, and I was frustrated at that, so I didn’t want it to affect me.” Murray would finish with four points and three blocked shots.

Chicago now has to prepare for Wash U, a storied program with one of the top players in the country in fourth-year guard Dani Hoover. Last year, Chicago played Wash U three times, defeating them twice before a heartbreaking loss to the Bears in the Elite Eight. Like Chicago, Wash U features a well-rounded scoring attack. Although Hoover leads the Bears with more than 11 points per game, six different players have led them in scoring in only 11 games this season. The game will be in St. Louis, in front of some of the rowdiest fans in DIII basketball.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” said first-year forward Hannah Ballard. “It’s what we want. It’s what we’re looking for.”

Tip-off is set for 1 p.m. at Wash U.