What a difference two days make. After posting a convincing 65-62 win at home over University Athletic Association rival Washington University in St. Louis on Friday, the UR women’s basketball team was tripped up by the visiting University of Chicago Maroons this past Sunday, losing its first match of the season, 51-71.

‘The difference in the two games this weekend I think was our energy,” sophomore guard Melissa Alwardt said. ‘In the Wash U game, we had a lot of energy from beginning to end, and that translated to our toughness on defense. In the Chicago game, our energy lacked in the first half.”

Solid defense was key for UR against the Golden Bears of Wash U on Friday. The Bears the No. 24 team in the country according to the most recent d3hoops.com poll entered the game averaging just under 75 points per game.

‘We really worked hard to keep them from getting to the basket off the dribble and from post feeds,” head coach Jim Scheible said. ‘Against just about anyone else on our schedule we would have held that team to the 40s, but it is a testament to how good Wash U is that they scored 62.”

The ‘Jackets who were ranked No. 1 in the nation according to a d3hoops.com poll going into the game jumped out to an early 12-4 lead four minutes in thanks to a balanced attack on offense. Freshman center Jodie Luther led UR’s charge, notching 10 points off the bench in the first half, and the ‘Jackets took a 31-26 advantage into halftime.

Wash U came out fighting in the second half, going on an 8-3 run to tie the game at 34 points apiece. Three minutes later, the Bears had their first lead of the game, taking a 37-36 advantage off of a 3-pointer. For the next 10 minutes of play, the two teams exchanged leads back and forth, each team struggling to retain an advantage.

With 3:29 remaining, the Yellowjackets took the lead for good. Senior forward Alex Porter hit two free throws, giving UR a 56-54 advantage and control of the game. The ‘Jackets didn’t make another field goal but were superb from the line, hitting 11 of 12 shots in the final three-and-a-half minutes.

Alwardt led the team with 15 points, while Luther finished with 14 and Porter recorded the double-double, notching 11 points and 13 rebounds.

Two days after stopping a streaking Wash U team in its tracks, however, UR was unable to mirror the energy and defensive prowess against the Maroons. Chicago, the defending UAA champions, came out strong and never looked back, breaking down a Yellowjacket defense that, coming into the game, hadn’t allowed more than 70 points in regulation.

‘Their posts (particularly Karly Kasper) played exceptionally on the offensive end, and I also thought [small forward] Alex leach was very tough for us to defend,” Scheible said. ‘They were really at the top of their game.”

In the first half against Chicago, the Yellowjackets allowed the Maroons to shoot 58.3 percent from the field, while only shooting 35.1 percent themselves, including 10 percent from behind the 3-point arch.

‘Chicago was so tough to defend, because they constantly went to the hoop and were always ready to attack,” Alwardt said. ‘You could not rest at any one moment on the court.”

In the first minute of the game, it looked as if the ‘Jackets would be able to continue their strong shooting from the floor.

Junior guard Jessica Mastronardi hit a 3-pointer on UR’s first possession, and senior center Julie Marriott, who leads the team in points per game, sank a jumper to give the ‘Jackets a 5-2 edge early in the game.

Chicago responded, hitting a mid-range jumper and back-to-back layups to take a one-point lead.

The game stayed close for most of the half. UR again got good energy from its bench early. Six minutes into the game, sophomore guard Ariel Evans finished on a layup and got fouled in the process. She was able to convert on the three-point play, giving the Yellowjackets a 12-11 lead.

With just over seven minutes remaining before halftime and UR again holding on to a one-point lead, the Maroons began to build some momentum. By halftime, Chicago had extended its lead to seven.

In the second half, the Maroons got off to a quick start, taking a double-digit lead and never looking back. UR was unable to mount a charge and had one of its worst shooting outings of the season, hitting just 26.9 percent from the field after halftime.

Marriott led the Yellowjackets with 14 points she was the only UR player to reach double digits. Porter and Alwardt each finished with seven points.

‘We faced two very good opponents, and they did not disappoint,” Scheible said. ‘The difference is that we made big shots against Wash U and could not seem to do the same against Chicago.”

With the split this weekend, the Yellowjackets’s record falls to 15-1 overall and 4-1 in conference. The ‘Jackets move to No. 5 in the d3hoops.com national poll. Wash U, Chicago, New York University and UR are all tied atop the UAA standings.
This coming weekend, UR will be on the road, facing off against Emory University and Case Western Reserve University.

‘As we move onto Case and Emory, hopefully we realize that the feeling we got after Chicago was something that we never want to experience again,” Alwardt said. ‘I think that is motivation enough to go out and get two big wins this coming weekend.”

Hilfinger is a member of the class of 2010.

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