Women’s basketball falls to UAA opponents

“Our biggest thing was playing two halves. We played one against Chicago and we played two good halves again today,” Carnegie Mellon women’s basketball coach Gerri Seidl summed up.

While their road games against two strong conference opponents, the University of Chicago and Washington University (Mo.), put them at the short end of the scoreboard, the young team showed the improvement they hope will carry through the rest of the season.

Sunday’s game against Wash. U. (12–4, 4–1 UAA) found the Tartans (6–10, 0–5 UAA) against a tough Bears team that had won 10 of its previous 11 games. Carnegie Mellon held close behind the Bears in the first half, twice pulling within two points — first on junior guard Leah Feola’s three-pointer and again a minute later on a jump shot by sophomore forward Ashley Rothwell. Feola and sophomore guard Stacie Aleski both put up eight points in the half. Picking up on defense as the first half ended, a quick 6–0 run at the end of the half closed Wash. U.’s lead to only 34–30 before the Bears’ last-second shot drained for two.

Coming out for the second period, the Tartans’ defense solidified and held Wash. U.’s lead steady around six for the first five minutes of play before a Wash. U. layup pulled them out to eight. With Carnegie Mellon unable to convert a quick pair of steals into points, Wash. U. increased their lead to 17 on strong play in the paint by their center, senior Rebecca Parker.

The Tartans netted two threes late in the half — one from Aleski and one from senior guard Ashley Mazziotta — and closed the Wash. U. gap back to 13, but Wash. U. closed out the game and took the victory, 76–64.

Carnegie Mellon was led by a double-double from Feola, who finished with 16 points and 12 boards in the game on her 50 percent shooting from the floor, earning praise from Seidl for her “fantastic game.” Seidl was also pleased by Mazziotta’s leadership. “She took control on the floor... making sure we were where we were supposed to be,” Seidl said.

In the team’s weekend opener Friday against UAA powerhouse 11th-ranked Chicago (16–0, 5–0 UAA), the Tartans fell behind early, but kept pace before a 15–0 Maroon run — largely on a strong shooting performance from the foul stripe — put Carnegie Mellon in the hole 32–12. Though the Tartans closed part of the gap on guard Aleski’s three straight three-pointers late in the half, Chicago owned a 15-point lead at halftime.

“The [sophomores] are starting to come out and hit shots,” noted Mazziotta about her younger teammates, “and that’s big for this team.”

Out of the break, Tartan forward Rothwell hit a quick jumper to close the Chicago lead to 13, but the Maroons scored the next 26 points and 41 of the next 45 — including 10 straight by Maroon guard Lori Tanaka, punctuated by only a Carnegie Mellon free throw — to take an insurmountable 50-point lead with six minutes to play, leading to an eventual win: Maroons 91, Tartans 49.

“[We] knew we could play with them,” Mazziotta said. “With a young team, we’ve now played the top two or three teams in the UAA close.”

Seidl is hopeful about what such close play against strong conference rivals means for the rest of this season. “We need to play this way when we play those teams [the remaining conference schedule],” she said.

Earlier in the week, in their final non-conference game of the season, the Tartans built an early lead of eight points in the first eight minutes over the Bethany (W.Va.) College Bison (6–10). The Bison closed the gap, however, building their own seven-point lead with under two minutes to play in the first half, but an eight-point run took Carnegie Mellon into intermission with a single-point advantage.

In the second half, the Bison re-established themselves with a 22–9 run that put their lead at 54–42 with under seven minutes to play, but the Tartans fought back again, once again overtaking their opponents on first-year guard Paige Williamson’s eight points in a short 50-second stretch. After trading a Bison layup for a Tartan free throw, Carnegie Mellon’s second foul shot missed with seven seconds left and Bethany guard Lisa Mitchell took a pass and beat the buzzer from three-point range to take the improbable win, 67–66.

After four straight away games, the team next takes the court home for a pair of UAA games Friday and Sunday against Emory University and Case Western Reserve University.