SPORTS

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January 20, 2012

Undefeated Maroons take on conference rivals

One of the most threatening aspects of Chicago’s team last year was not their stifling defense; it was that they could score when they got to the other end of the floor. With four starters in double figure scoring last year, the Maroons could not only lock teams down on defense, but also run the score up on offense. So when Chicago fans learned that second-year guard Maggie Ely, the most prolific scorer in the UAA last year at nearly 16 points per game, was transferring to Chicago, both fans and the coaching staff couldn’t help but be excited.

“I was thankful we didn’t have to come up with a way to defend her again,” laughed head coach Aaron Roussell. “I think she was the one player last year that we spent the most amount of time focusing on and energy defending. She’s such a dynamic scorer that she caused us a lot of problems.”

Ely will take on her former team tonight, the NYU Violets. She insists that despite her history with the team, the pressure to perform tonight will be no different than other nights.

“You have to approach every game and team the same way mentally, so it will be just like every other game for me,” Ely said.

Ely’s scoring has dropped substantially since playing at NYU, as she now averages only five and a half points per contest. However, this is probably more a result of her not needing to score as much. At NYU last year, she was the primary scoring option and didn’t have another teammate in double-digit scoring.

“She and I had some very direct conversations. [I told her], ‘You’re not going to be the leading scorer in the league if you come here,’” Roussell said.

Even with her scoring down this year, Roussell had high praise for the dangerous offensive threat. “There haven’t been a whole lot of kids that we’ve had that I’ve ever coached that have the scoring capability she does,” he said. “She can score with the best of them.”

Chicago faces NYU (9–5, 1–2), a team that, along with Ely, gave them a scare last year in a good old-fashioned 87–81 shootout. Ely played the full 40 minutes against what would be her new team, scoring 25 points. Without Ely, NYU has struggled offensively, putting up only 59 points a game. Chicago averages nearly 72.

The Maroons are coming off a close call against Case, an unheralded and unranked team that held the lead through much of the first half before Chicago was eventually able to pull away with a 62–57 win.

“Case is a very good team and a fun one to play against. As for [us], we learned that we have to play a complete 40-minute game,” Ely said. “We have great spurts, as every team does. Putting it all together for a complete game is a challenge, but one that I’m confident we’re capable of.”

On Sunday, Chicago will face a Brandeis (7–7, 3–0) squad that has been struggling all year, sitting in last in the UAA. Brandeis also struggles offensively, scoring only 55 points per game, something that is sure to be a problem against the suffocating Chicago defense. Fourth-year ballhawk Meghan Herrick is averaging nearly two steals per game along with fourth-year guard Bryanne Halfhill, who is fifth on Chicago’s all-time steals list. The Maroons will also be well-rested; for the first time since UAA play began, Chicago will be staying at home for the weekend.

“I love playing at home, as does the rest of the team,” Herrick said. “There is something about the comfort of home with your fans and family.”

Tonight is also Beach Night, an annual event that hopes to entice students to come to games with free Hawaiian -style pizza, limbo contests, and other fun prizes and activities.

“I love Beach Night,” Roussell said. “Beach Night is my favorite night of the year every single year.”

The women’s game kicks off at 6 p.m. at the Ratner Athletic Center. A live stream is available through athletics.uchicago.edu.

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