Men’s basketball anticipates conference play after loss to Carthage

By Rush Atkinson

The men’s basketball team continued its troubled season with the first loss of 2003 as it fell to Carthage College last Tuesday by a score of 64-77. The Maroons’ loss to the Carthage Redmen, ranked 10th in national polls, dropped the team to 4-7 and left it still winless on the road.

The Maroons erased an early Redmen six-point lead to end the first half tied at 24. Carthage, with a 7-3 record, then slowly took over with what would become at one point a 17-point lead over Chicago.

The Maroons did have some reasons to smile after the game. The return of third-year forward Scott Fisher, who has missed most of the season thus far with a stress fracture, was certainly a joy for the team, which has only two other upperclassmen. Fisher was a welcome addition to the starting lineup, scoring 17 points and adding seven rebounds to his stats. Second-year Brian Cuttica scored a game-high 21 points, mostly thanks to his five three-pointers.

For the Maroons, having both Cuttica and Fisher able to convert in the offensive half is exactly what they need, considering offensive production has been low all year. The team has not scored more than 70 points in a game for over a month. Cuttica’s 21 points is the first timethis year that a player other than fourth-year captain Derek Reich has scored more than 20 in any single appearance.

It has been a year in which the men’s team has had to fight injury, fatigue, and youthful inexperience. Head coach Mike McGrath related that these, combined with the continuous losses have, at times, snowballed to the point where the team has found itself in some deep holes. “It’s been a disappointing start, especially after our 2-0 start,” McGrath said, “Losing Scott hurt, especially with this young team.” He believed one of the team’s greatest downfalls was “a lack of confidence” in its play, which he attributed in part to its inexperience. This lack of confidence has had a draining effect on the players. “As we lost confidence,” McGrath said, “we lost energy.”

On the same day that Reich was named UAA Athlete of the Week for the third time this season, he suffered his worst game of the season, being held to just 16 points and 11 boards. Reich received his latest UAA acknowledgement after leading the team to victory over Lake Forest last Saturday, 66-54. Reich scored 29 points in that game and amassed 11 rebounds as the Maroons stopped a three-game losing skid that had ended the 2002 year. While Reich was the only player to score more than 10 points, the rest of the team contributed enough to beat the 1-7 Lake Forest squad.

From the outset, the Maroons made no secret that their strategy for the season revolved around Reich, the Division III preseason Player of the Year. Reich proved early on that he deserves that type of recognition this season, posting 40 or more points in three of the first five games. On November 30, Reich broke the school’s 46-year-old single-game scoring record, scoring 44 in Chicago’s heartbreaking 68-66 loss to Southwestern University in Texas. Reich, however, has cooled since breaking the school record. While averaging 33.4 points in November, Reich did not score 30 once in December. Until the Carthage game, no other player had stepped up to fill that void.

The Maroons’ challenges this season will only increase from here. Chicago begins their UAA season on Saturday with their first match against Washington University of St. Louis, currently ranked first nationally. In addition, the Maroons will face second-ranked Rochester University twice down the road as well as conference rival Emory University, who also received votes for a national ranking. The upside to a schedule like this is that one win against any of these teams would be a huge victory for the Maroons. The men’s game against Washington University tips off at 8 p.m. on Saturday, January 11.