With the sands drifting in the right direction for the Maroons at the sixth annual Beach Night, men’s basketball beat Rochester on Friday 79–73, before falling to Emory on Sunday 78–70. The split result left the Maroons at 5–9, with a 2–1 conference record.
Inspired by the coaches’ Hawaiian shirts, a large crowd turnout, and led by six-of-seven shooting from behind the arc in the second half, Chicago recovered from a 39–32 halftime deficit against the Yellowjackets and notched narrow, six-point win.
“Beach Night is such a fun night for everyone involved. In a game that came down to the last few minutes, there is no doubt that our guys fed off of the energy of the crowd to pull out the win,” assistant coach Drew Adams said.
Chicago took the lead nine minutes into the second half off a three-pointer from third-year Matt Johnson, who scored a team-high 16 points. In response, the fans in attendance roared: “We are U of C!”
“When the crowd is excited and into the game, it definitely gives us some added energy,” Johnson said. “It looked like the fans had a great time too, and we’re hoping they continue to do that.”
While the team did make tactical changes during the break, Adams attributed the halftime turnaround primarily to the team’s improved focus.
“In the Rochester game during halftime, we made one major adjustment in how we played the ball screen involving their point guard, but for the most part, it was just our guys playing with a better mental effort in the second half.”
Chicago’s high percentage shooting—63 percent from the field, 56 percent from beyond the arc over the course of the game, and 85 percent from the free throw line—sealed the win for the Maroons.
On Sunday, the team fell to Emory 78–70. While Chicago fought back to take a short-lived lead in the second half, mental errors proved costly for the Maroons, who committed 15 turnovers to Emory’s nine.
“I think as a team we need to do a better job coming to compete from the start. In these first few UAA games, it has taken us a while to settle in for that particular opponent,” Adams said. “We need to focus on being secure with the basketball. In both games this weekend, our turnovers put a huge stress on our defense.”
Johnson, whose four-point outing against Emory ended his double-digit scoring streak at 12 games, said the team’s inability to adjust was a major reason for their loss to the Eagles.
“Against Rochester, we set the tone offensively and defensively and corrected any mistakes we had in the first half. In the Emory game, although we eventually took the lead, we continued to make many of the same mistakes and allowed them to make plays down the stretch.”
Johnson continued, “These two games were a testament to the importance of learning from our mistakes. As a team, we are always going to mess up. We just have to make sure it doesn’t happen a second time.”
The Maroons hope to recover during road games against Brandeis and NYU next weekend.
“Despite being disappointed about our loss to Emory, we feel that the UAA is up for grabs this year,” Adams said. “With a strong road trip this weekend, we can put ourselves in a good position early in the conference season.”