February 24, 2014

When one winning streak ends, another begins

Chicago (15–9, 9–4 UAA) returned to action over the weekend, facing Carnegie Mellon (12–12, 3–10) and Case Western (9–15, 3–10) in two testy conference games with playoff implications. The Maroons had won five straight games entering the weekend.

The Carnegie matchup began haphazardly, as the Tartans did an effective job denying Chicago clean looks in the paint, blocking five shots in the first half. However, Chicago shot the ball from distance extremely effectively, going 7–14 from three in the first half and scoring a season-high 14 three-pointers on the game. Nevertheless, Carnegie would not go away, and Carnegie guard Gabrielle West sunk four three-pointers in rapid succession en route to a 23-point performance that elevated the Tartans’ offensive verve. West and company continued to give the Maroons a taste of their own medicine, as they made a lethal 62.5 percent of their field goals (15–24) in the second half to build a 13-point lead.

The South Siders resolutely fought their way back to tie the game 77–77 with less than a minute to go, in large part through 15 clutch second-half points from second-year guard Paige Womack, but Chicago squandered its final offensive possessions, and the Tartans secured their 84–77 upset from the free-throw line.

Womack, who led Chicago with 21 points off the bench, believes that Chicago lost a huge opportunity to control the game after the interval.

“We came out of halftime very flat and weren’t taking care of the ball like we know how to,” she said.

The Maroons responded positively on Sunday, turning in an industrious performance to vanquish visiting Case in front of the admiring eyes of several family members, who came out for the team’s Parents’ Day.

As the game began, both teams turned the ball over several times and struggled to find a rhythm offensively. The Spartans deserve credit for putting up a solid zone defense and closing down on shots, but the Maroons’ futility from three-point range (3–13 in the first half) made for a less fluid, slower game, which favored Case. However, Chicago made the most of its chances from the free-throw line to see through the 79–68 victory. While it wasn’t the cleanest of victories, Chicago certainly has plenty of positives to take from Sunday’s win.

“It’s always hard to maintain confidence against a zone when shots aren’t falling. I thought we responded very well, attacking seams and making penetrating passes, which opened up easier shots for us down low in the second half,” said fourth-year guard Maggie Ely. She led Chicago with 16 points.

The Maroons’ loss on Friday means that their chances of selection into the NCAA DIII are slim, but they will nonetheless see Saturday’s home game against the Wash U Bears (22–2, 12–1) as a chance to end their season on a high note and defeat a conference rival. The Bear hunt begins on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Ratner.