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January 31, 2012

Unbeaten Chicago hands Rochester first loss

Chicago finished the first half of UAA play undefeated, taking down Emory 68–49 and previously undefeated Rochester 75–59.  Emory’s sophomore star Hannah Lilly walked into the Gerald Ratner Athletics Center averaging 19 points a game; she left with her second lowest scoring night of the year.  Rochester walked into Ratner as one of six remaining unbeaten teams in the country; they left without holding a lead in the second half.  

Friday night’s game against Emory pitted Lilly against Chicago’s defensive ace, fourth-year forward Meghan Herrick. There was a frightening moment early in first half, as Meghan Herrick banged knees with guard and fellow fourth-year Bryanne Halfhill. Herrick crashed to the floor, visibly crying out in pain, but she was able to leave the floor under her own power and returned later in the half.

“So, I’m not going to lie, I was a little bit of a baby,” Meghan Herrick said, laughing, after the game.  “I think, when it comes to the knee, I get a little scared. It hurt a lot, but the good thing was that my knee locked, so there’s usually not going to be any tears, [and] I think it was just more of a scare.”

Chicago barely missed a beat in Meghan Herrick’s absence, however, as second-year transfer Julie Muguira stepped in to fill the defensive duties on Lilly.

“We knew she was going to be a tough cover, but our mentality the whole game was team defense,” Muguira said. “I think it gives you a little more confidence knowing that your teammates are out there to help you.”

Emory came out of the gates strong, using a press to throw off the Maroons’ offensive rhythm.  The Eagles jumped out to a 7–1 lead, but Chicago quickly figured out the press and rallied, eventually evening the score, then going on a 10–2 run in the first half to break the game open.

“That was definitely a focus of our preparation for Emory was the press break,” fourth-year center Taylor Simpson said. “I think we did a good job of being calm and poised.”

The Maroons never trailed in the second half. Three Chicago players—fourth-year Joann Torres, first-year Hannah Ballard, and Simpson—scored in double figures, as the Maroons got the opportunity to rest their starters.

Sunday’s game against Rochester was expected to be a clash between two UAA titans but ended up being yet another blowout, Chicago’s fourth in as many games. Chicago is defeating opposing teams by an average of 18.2 points per game.

The blowouts have given the Maroons the opportunity to play deep into their bench, giving their reserves more opportunities to get significant playing time. None of the Chicago starters average more than 28 minutes a game.

“I think our young kids really have provided us with some depth, and they’re just getting better and better,” Roussell said last week on Hoopsville. “I really have felt comfortable with those kids out there.”

Chicago had the lead for all but three minutes on Sunday, and led by double digits as early as halfway through the first half. Rochester battled back to within three at the outset of the second half, but Chicago promptly responded with a 10–0 run over the course of just two minutes.  The Maroons would go on to win after leading by as many as 19 points during the game, despite Simpson putting up only six points and five rebounds. Fourth-years Bryanne Halfhill, Morgan Herrick, and Meghan Herrick scored 14, 16, and 13 points, respectively. Morgan Herrick scored her 16 points with efficiency, hitting all seven of her shots, including two from beyond the arc.

The Maroons will now complete the back half of the UAA schedule, playing each team a second time. They will travel to Atlanta next week to take on Emory again, before flying to Rochester to play the Yellowjackets in a highly anticipated rematch. Friday night’s game will tip off at 5 p.m. CST, and Sunday’s game will tip off at 1 p.m. CST.  Both will be streamed live; for the links visit athletics.uchicago.edu.

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