The plan is simple: Win them all at home and steal some on the road, and you’re in contention for the UAA title. Right now, women’s basketball is playing like they need to win them all, period.
The Maroons earned two crucial conference road wins this weekend to extend their winning streak to four games and solidify their status as UAA title contenders. Chicago (12–4, 4–1 UAA) routed Carnegie (8–7, 1–3) 76–51 Friday night and pulled out a hard-fought 72–67 victory over Case (11–5, 2–3) Sunday afternoon.
Suddenly, the sting of losing 63–34 at nationally third-ranked Wash U (15–1, 5–0) on January 9 is a distant memory replaced by optimism and determination to continue this winning streak.
“I feel like our team is finally playing together and people are stepping up at the right times,” fourth-year post Molly Hackney said. “Everyone is extremely positive and excited about our upcoming games.”
In Friday’s game against the Tartans, Chicago got out to a hot start and never looked back. The Maroons began the game with an 11–1 run and led by 19 at the break. Chicago shot 61.5 percent from the field in the opening period, while Carnegie only made 20.7 percent of their attempts.
The Maroons never led by less than 13 in the second half and cruised to a relatively comfortable 25-point margin of victory. Third-year guard Dana Kaplan and second-year guard Meghan Herrick tied for the game-high in points with 15 each.
“She thrives in that sort of pace,” Roussell said of Herrick, who has led Chicago in scoring (11.4 per game) and is second on the team in rebounding (6.3 per game) and steals (22). “She’s an aggressive player, and when we let her be aggressive, she’ll kind of flourish.”
Sunday’s game at Case was a much more demanding challenge. The Maroons had a five-point advantage at the break but were unable to pull away from the Spartans. Chicago led by as many as 13 in the second half, but Case came back and matched the Maroons shot-for-shot until Chicago finally went ahead for good with 2:19 remaining on a three by second-year guard Bryanne Halfhill.
“When Case came back in the second half, they scored every way that our coaches told us they would,” Halfhill said. “We left girls that could shoot wide open and girls that could drive have easy driving lanes to their right. As soon as we got back on track and started getting stops on defense, our offense just came natural.”
Last year’s UAA Rookie of the Year came up with several big plays for Chicago down the stretch, picking up a steal on Case’s end for an easy layup to break a 51–51 tie and giving Chicago its last lead of the game on the corner three. It was a breakout performance for Halfhill, who scored 18 points to go with nine rebounds and four assists.
“She was very, very good [Sunday],” Roussell said. “She had a breakout game Sunday, and that kind of takes the pressure off. She had been pressing, trying to do too much, but she kind of relaxed a little bit and just played.”
Chicago was able to get stops on Case’s next two possessions, allowing the Maroons to pull away.
“In the last five minutes, we did a great job of collecting ourselves on offense and getting great shots. We didn’t panic, and that made a big difference,” fourth-year guard Jamie Stinson said.
While Halfhill led Chicago in points, rebounds, and assists in the contest, Hackney’s 17-point display allowed her to reach an impressive individual milestone. Hackney became the ninth player in program history to score 1,000 points, now sitting at eighth among the Maroons’ all-time scorers.
Hackney downplayed the importance of the individual milestone.
“It was fun, but I’m more focused on our team continuing this winning streak,” she said.
While the team’s attention now turns to next weekend’s road trips to Emory (9–7, 2–3) and Rochester (13–3, 3–2), the Maroons did savor these wins while they had the chance.
“This weekend’s wins were big for us in terms of both team morale and UAA standings,” Stinson said. “Everyone on the team has been working really hard, so it’s a great feeling when all that work starts to show in our record.”