After two barnburners, 3–1 squad returns home

Chicago men’s basketball went 1–1 in two tight games at the Hoopsville Invitational Classic.

By Mary MacLeod

They don’t get much closer than this.

This weekend Chicago went 1–1 on the road at the Hoopsville National Invitational Classic, returning home from the nation’s capital with an impressive 3–1 overall record.

In their first game of the tournament, the Maroons suffered a heartbreaking 81–79 overtime loss against No. 12 Worcester Polytechnic Institute (3–0).

“Going into WPI, [head] coach [Mike McGrath] really stressed the fact that we needed to compete for rebounds and offensive rebounds,” said second-year forward Waller Perez.

The team did just that, outrebounding their opponents by an impressive 49–33 count. Perez led the Maroons with 11 boards.

Despite Chicago’s domination down low, the Engineers got off to a quick start, forcing 14 turnovers in the first 20 minutes of the game. After halftime, the Maroons countered and went on a 10–1 run to close the gap. The game went back and forth all the way to the buzzer, as third-year guard Jordan Smith willed Chicago into overtime by sinking a three-pointer with just seconds remaining in regulation.

In overtime, the South Siders were unable to limit their turnovers and stop the sharpshooting Engineers, and Worcester ended up pulling out the win.

“I think our team gave them some easy baskets due to lack of focus in certain instances,” Perez said. “Also, we needed to execute more on the timing of some of our plays.”

The Maroons fared better in their second game of the tournament against the host team Stevenson, as Chicago came out on top in a 73–71 thriller.

“Our game plan was to stop their transition offense,” said second-year point guard Tyler Howard. “We knew the keys to winning would be to handle their pressure, play team defense, and win the rebounding battle.”

The team did cut down on its turnovers, but it was outrebounded for the first time this season 34–32. Additionally, the Mustangs outshot Chicago in every category, yet couldn’t seem to overcome the Maroons’ defense in the final stretches.

After working their way back from a game-long deficit, the Mustangs were unable to seal the game. They surged ahead 61–59 late in the second half, only to be overcome by back-to-back threes from Howard and third-year forward Alex Voss. In the end, the South Siders won with a two-point bucket with seven seconds left in the game.

“We stayed composed toward the end of the game and boxed out and got stops when we needed,” Howard said. “We stayed together as a team. I think this game proved that we can compete with any team in the country if we play together and execute our game plan.”

Perez led Chicago with 17 points, and Howard added 13 points, six assists, and five steals.

Chicago next plays on November 29 at home against the Beloit Buccaneers (2–1). Tipoff is at 3 p.m. at Ratner. This game kicks off the UChicago Tournament, which will conclude the following day.