In a weekend that gave yet another reminder that there are no sure things in UAA play, men’s basketball went up against the very same teams it played last week and wound up with the exact opposite results.
Riding high after a win last Sunday at Rochester (17–3, 6–3 UAA), the Maroons (13–7, 6–3) played host Friday night and the visitors spoiled the party, squeaking out a 64–63 win in the last seconds. In the second game of the weekend, Chicago avenged its 74–60 loss at Carnegie (13–7, 3–6) last Friday by putting a 97–78 clapping to the outgunned Tartans.
Picking up an L in Friday night’s action was an especially bitter pill for the Maroons. Sparked by a two-handed dunk 15 seconds into the game from fourth-year center Jon Onyiriuka, Rochester ran out to an early 9–2 lead, but Chicago responded with a 20–4 run of its own, giving the Maroons a 22–13 edge 10 minutes into the game.
A few late shots helped the Yellowjackets narrow the gap to four points at halftime, but the odds were still with the Maroons, who had won 10 of their previous 11 games where they held a halftime lead.
As the second stanza started up, neither squad could get any significant lead. With only three minutes off the clock, a layin from third-year forward Adam Machones gave the Maroons a six-point advantage, a margin that proved to be the largest of the half. Third-year forward Michael Chmielowiec came back from a scoreless first half to score 14 second-half points and prevent Chicago from pulling away. Scoring at nearly the same clip was third-year forward Nate Hainje, who poured in 13 over the last 20 minutes to pace the Maroons.
With time ticking down and the game still close, Hainje came up with the biggest of those 13 points. The Maroons trailed by two with less than 25 seconds to go when Hainje received the ball on the perimeter and turned toward the basket. As he drove hard to the basket, Hainje was swarmed by defenders, but managed to hit an improbable layup and draw a foul in the process. Hainje sunk the and-one, putting Chicago up by one with 12 seconds to go.
Without calling a timeout, Rochester put the ball in play and ran down court. Amidst the confusion of the transition, Onyiriuku managed to get away from his defender and open under the basket. The center corralled a long pass, turned, and banked in a short shot, giving the Yellowjackets a one-point edge.
Some quick passes up court allowed Chicago to get the ball to Hainje, who put a long three just as the buzzer sounded, but the desperation attempt came up short and the Maroons had to settle for a 64–63 loss.
“Other than 12 seconds, I thought we had a great game,” said McGrath. “You wish you could get that back, but you can’t. You’ve just got to do whatever you can to not put yourself in that position again.”
If the narrow defeat was frustrating for the Maroons, they got an opportunity to blow off some of their frustration in Sunday’s matchup. The Tartans hung around in the first half, and even led 33–32 two minutes before halftime, but a quick burst of scoring earned the Maroons a 41–36 lead at the break and gave Carnegie a taste of the things to come.
The second half ended up being all Maroons. Pancratz went three of five from beyond the arc, and Chicago sunk 16 of 18 from the stripe as they built up a commanding lead. Up 20 with five minutes to go, the team could relax and spread around playing time as it cruised to a 97–76 final.
Leading the Maroons with a 25-point effort was third-year forward Matt Corning, who has averaged 21 points over the past two weekends.
“Matt’s got the ability to really score points,” McGrath said. “He’s very confident. He’s a versatile player that can score in the post. He can drive, he can shoot, and he’s done a great job for us that way. It’s given the team a big lift over the course of the past couple games. He’s a tough player to match up with because he’s so strong and athletic and at the same time skilled.”
Hainje followed Corning with 18 points for the Maroons. Fourth-year guard Geoff Kozak topped all Tartans with his 14-point performance, while fourth-year forward Greg Gonzalez put up 13 points and pulled down six boards.
The 21-point victory was a complete reversal of the Maroons’ struggles in Pittsburgh a week ago. In that game, Chicago was a meager 7–27 from the field in the second half, including 0–10 from three-point range.
“I thought that part of the difference was just that we shot the ball incredibly well,” said McGrath. “I thought we played better here, which was part of why we made more shots.”
“The emotions of Friday–Sunday games can be a part of it as well,” McGrath added. “We were coming out of a game where we lost a tough one Friday, we were pretty motivated I think, and they had to travel and took one on the chin on Friday, I think that plays a factor in the UAA too.”
In another pair of weekend road games, the team take on Emory (10–10, 3–6) Friday, and then head to Case (7–13, 0–9) Sunday game.