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March 2, 2015

Loss to Bears doesn't diminish strong season

The Maroons traveled to St. Louis last Sunday to take on No. 9 Wash U (23–2, 12–2 UAA) in what would be their most critical game of the year. Chicago (18–7, 12–2) entered with 12 consecutive wins and first place in the UAA standings. A victory would have given them an automatic spot in the NCAA tournament.

But the Bears had other plans. Wash U had lost only two games heading into the season finale. But those two losses came in conference play, slotting them right behind their opponents in the standings. Having beaten Chicago earlier in the year, another win would give them the tie-breaker and send them through to the tournament.

In a game that came down to the final seconds, the Bears clawed their way to a 63–56 victory.

The match was competitive from wire to wire. After Wash U took an early 12–7 lead, Chicago responded with 11 unanswered shots to put itself out front. After trading baskets the rest of the half, Wash U held a slim 29–26 advantage.

Despite the score, Chicago shot much better than its opponents in the first half of regulation, converting nearly 41 percent of its shots to the Bears’ 26 percent. But Wash U pulled down 13 offensive rebounds, allowing it to put up eight more shots than its adversaries.

Little changed in the second half. What had been a competitive game was only more so after the break. When one team scored, the other always countered. The teams were never separated by more than seven points throughout the rest of the game.

But with just one minute left on the clock, the Bears held the 57–50 lead. The game looked to be winding to a close.

But first-year guard Elizabeth Nye led an unlikely comeback. After knocking down a pair of free throws, she pocketed a three to put Chicago within just one possession of its opponents.

With 39 seconds left in the game, however, it was the Bears who had the ball and the three-point lead. Chicago, nonetheless, forced a turnover. The Maroons had a chance to complete the comeback.

But one more three was perhaps asking too much from Nye, who had already willed the Maroons back into contention. After her miss, the Bears iced the game with free throws.

“I couldn’t be more proud of what our team has done this season. We came back from starting the season 1–4 to getting the UAA title. That takes grit and there is not another team I would rather do that with,” said second-year forward Stephanie Anderson.

Despite the loss, the Maroons still have much to celebrate. While Chicago could not claim sole possession of UAA conference lead, they share co-champion honors with the Bears. Wash U, though, was the team that clinched an automatic spot in the NCAA tournament. Today, the Maroons were notified that they did not receive an at large bid and will have to settle for ending their season with a share of the conference title.

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