Conference rivals offer shot at redemption

Chicago tries to end their season with the consistency they’ve missed all year

By Nick Foretek

After two tough losses officially dashed the Maroons’ hopes for a conference title, Chicago will play two UAA opponents this weekend at home in Brandeis and NYU. Resting at 8–14, it has been a season of disappointments and struggles for a young team that had hoped, at one point, to capture the UAA crown.

The Maroons, alongside their weekend opponents, share a 5–6 conference record, and will be able to eclipse their rivals and gain sole possession of third place should they win out. They have lost on the road to both opponents, falling to Brandeis 59–53 and to NYU 62–47.

Hoping to remedy their past errors, assistant coach Drew Adams noted, “If we take care of the basketball and focus on bringing a strong effort defensively this weekend, we have a good chance of getting two wins against two talented teams.”

Hindered by sloppy play throughout the season, the Maroons will need to limit their turnovers against both teams. The South Siders committed 30 total turnovers against both teams earlier in the season. Emory and Brandeis capitalized on Chicago’s careless ball control by scoring a combined 30 points off those mistakes.

Given their familiarity with both teams, Chicago will need to focus on limiting their own mistakes and winning battles in the low court. “We know everything these teams are going to do,” third-year Tommy Sotos said. “For me, evenly matched conference games always come down to the same thing: who can get stops late in the shot clock, and who controls the turnover and rebound battle.”

Interestingly, the Maroons won the rebound battle against both teams in their previous game. However, the Maroons shot a gloomy 32 percent against Brandeis, and only 30 percent against NYU. In those games, it was not so much about getting second chances as it was about converting them into points.

“We try not to get beat by the same thing twice. Whatever our opponent excelled at the first time, we try and make sure they don’t do that again,” third-year guard Michael Sustarsic said. “A lot of our problem against Brandeis and NYU the first time was finishing plays around the basket, so if we do that then we’ll put ourselves in a good position to win.”

“We have to come out with energy and play hard against league opponents,” third-year Tom Williams noted. “Most every game we have been able to do this.”

It’s been a difficult season for the Maroons, with both victories over elite teams and disappointing defeats.

“This season has been a bit of a roller coaster ride,” Adams stated. “We’ve shown that we can compete with the best teams in the country, but we haven’t been able to consistently put together strong efforts throughout the season.”

With only one graduating fourth-year the team hopes to develop further, both at the end of this season and into next season.

“This season hasn’t been as successful as we had hoped, but as a team we know what needs to get done over the summer for us to have a healthy and successful 2011–2012 season,” Williams conceded.

“This season comprised the most frustrating few months of my life. We beat good teams, lost to junk teams. Looking forward, I don’t really have an answer,” Sotos added, voicing the team’s frustration. “D–III coaches [can’t hold practice over the summer.] They’re not paying for us to go here. You need self-motivated kids who will put the time in the off-season to get better. If guys improve this summer, we’ll be in great shape next year. If guys sit around and play video games all summer, we’ll get the same sub-par results. The level of basketball being played has to rise, otherwise nothing will change.” The Maroons will play Brandeis at 8 p.m. tomorrow and NYU at noon on Saturday.