CHICAGO — A committed defensive effort and relentless attacks on the basket put the No. 17 University of Chicago women's basketball team in position to win before a handful of clutch rebounds and free throws sealed a tense 60-56 victory over Emory University Sunday afternoon at the Ratner Athletics Center.
The Maroons built an early lead by fighting to the rim, but as baskets grew harder to come by in the second half, UChicago leaned on its defense to weather an Emory rally that put the visitors in front with just five minutes to play. Over the final stretch, however, the home team produced key stops, pulled down contested boards, and hit high-pressure free throws to secure the win.
Thirty of UChicago's 60 points came in the paint, while the Maroons held the Eagles to 41.5 percent shooting and scored 13 points off their opponents' 14 turnovers. UChicago improved to 11-3 (2-1 University Athletic Association) with its second conference victory of the weekend, while Emory fell to 10-4, 1-2 with its second-straight loss.
Junior forward Taylor Lake topped the box score with 15 points, six rebounds, and five assists, while junior guard Mia Farrell tallied 14 points, driving aggressively to the hoop and converting all six of the free throw attempts she earned. Senior forward Olariche Obi pulled down 11 rebounds, including three from the offensive glass, and her seven points included the go-ahead basket with 2:46 remaining.
One of the timeliest contributions came from junior guard Miranda Burt, who finished the game off with four consecutive made free throws, each pair coming with Emory only two points behind. Burt racked up 12 points in total.
The Maroon defense made its presence felt in a low-scoring start as Emory probed for open looks but found little space to work with. On the other end of the floor, UChicago methodically attacked the basket from close range, slicing into the lane and setting up post combinations that began to pay dividends midway through the period. Trailing by a point five minutes in, the Maroons went on a 11-2 run that left them up 16-8 at the end of the first quarter, as Burt hit a three from the wing then blew by her defender with a left-hand drive.
The second quarter saw UChicago get to the rim consistently as the Maroon zone continued to stymie the Eagles' own efforts to work the ball inside. Although some of the visitors' shots were now finding the net, UChicago kept them guessing with a blend of tactics and knocked down a few threes that extended into a 31-20 margin at the half.
The statistics at the break reflected UChicago's staunch defense and power in the paint, with Emory's 8-for-26 shooting lagging the Maroons' 52 percent clip.
It seemed like the third quarter would bring more of the same as Farrell asserted herself and the hosts extended their advantage to as many as 15 points, but a prolonged dry spell soon allowed the Eagles to claw their way back as UChicago went nearly five minutes without scoring. Farrell broke the drought right as Emory made it a one-possession game before a rapid exchange of baskets at the end of the quarter ended with the visitors sinking a jumper to tie the contest at 42.
This set the stage for a nervy fourth quarter in which the defensive intensity of both teams dictated play. Emory claimed a 45-44 edge with an and-one layup, a score that held for two-and-a-half minutes before a midrange jumper from Farrell with four minutes to go.
The Maroons scrapped to stay in reach, with Farrell picking off a pass and racing down the floor. Her pull-up missed, but first-year forward Klaire Steffens scrambled for the offensive rebound and Burt added a point from the line after drawing a foul. Emory replied with a layup, but then Lake drilled a three from the top of the key to draw the game level at 50 points apiece.
UChicago forced a turnover on the next possession, earning a chance to take the lead with three minutes remaining. The Eagles knocked the ball out of bounds on Farrell's initial drive, but she fed Obi in the post with the inbounds pass, who worked around her defender and hit a reverse layup to put her team back in front.
With Emory gunning for the tying basket, the Maroons swarmed the ballhandler in the lane and came up with another turnover but could not capitalize. The Eagles next fired a go-ahead three and missed, with Lake pulling down a superb rebound. As the clock ticked under one minute, Emory nearly got a much-needed stop but Obi swooped in for an offensive rebound and drew a foul. Obi hit both of her free throws, as did Farrell after another Maroon stop, but Emory converted a quick and-one with 19.5 seconds left to remain in striking distance at 56-53.
It was left to Burt to extinguish the Eagles' hopes, knocking down a pair of free throws to give UChicago a five-point cushion. After another quick two from Emory Burt coolly replicated the feat, swishing both to provide the final 60-56 margin.
- Friday, Jan. 18: UChicago at Brandeis, 5 p.m. CT