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It was 2007 when the Maroons last defeated Wash U in the UAA season opener. But when the dust settled on Saturday’s back-and-forth contest, one massive block had decided the game in Chicago’s favor, getting the Maroons on the right foot as conference play began.
With Chicago nursing a 73–71 lead in the final seconds of the game, third-year Morgan Herrick sealed the victory and sent the Ratner Center crowd into a frenzy with a two-handed block of Wash U guard Dani Hoover’s potential game-tying runner.
“We did a good job of defending ourselves,” head coach Aaron Roussell said. “They are a very good team, and we came in very well prepared.”
The win was the Maroons’ fifth straight and their first over the Bears since 2008.
After going into halftime with the score knotted at 33–33, Chicago (9–3) made a run to take control early in the second half, but a flurry of three-pointers in the last three minutes brought fifth-ranked Wash U within an arm’s length of the comeback. The Maroons needed clutch foul shooting and Herrick’s final defensive stand to top the favored Bears.
All of Chicago’s key offensive players had big games, led by third-year Taylor Simpson’s 22 points and 14 rebounds. Third-year Joan Torres also had a big game, scoring a career-high 12 points with two of four shooting from behind the arc. Meghan Herrick, also a third-year, scored in double-digits for the seventh straight time with 17 points, in addition to providing shut-down defense on Wash U star Kathryn Berger. Berger was limited to 12 points on five of 13 shooting and turned the ball over three times. Hoover led the Bears with 17.
“I think the biggest key was getting in good shots,” Roussell said. “Occasionally, we have an issue with shooting too quickly, but in this case we really came together as a team to get in scoring shots.”
Though such a powerful showing against a longtime rival is a promising sign, challenges still lie ahead for the Maroons. “This early win definitely demonstrates our ability to be great. We showed we can compete with the best of them,” Meghan Herrick said. “However, even with this win, we still will need to continue to work hard and prepare for every game because there is no easy game in the UAA.”
Last season, the Maroons lost just three games in the UAA, but the 11–3 conference record was only good enough for second place.
“The UAA has a way of really humbling you. There are many great teams, with many great coaches,” Roussell said. The team will continue to take things game-by-game, because “when you get too distracted with the big picture you get in trouble.”
“We are up against two very good teams, and we need to focus our energy on that,” Roussell continued, referring to games against Rochester and Emory this weekend.
Friday’s game against Rochester will present a particular challenge, as they are ranked first in the conference with a 10–1 record. The game takes place at 6 p.m. at Ratner.