This weekend, the men's basketball team erased almost every criticism that has yet been offered about their season. With two UAA wins this weekend, Friday's 75-71 victory over Emory University and Sunday afternoon's romp over Case Western Reserve, the Maroons are enjoying the highest point of their season so far.
The pair of wins set many firsts for this year's campaign. They were the first and second road wins for a team that had dropped the first five away games of the season, and they were also the first and second league wins. It was also the first time the team scored over 70 points in a road game this year, and Sunday's 93 points tied the record for most points in any game this season.
Friday's win over the Emory Eagles was so far the biggest win this season. Though the Eagles came into the match having lost their last three, they had begun the season hot with seven straight wins and had received national votes in the ranking process the week before. But the Maroons ignored their underdog label right from the tip-off at the Woodruff P.E. Center, never trailing in the game after the first possession.
Chicago came off the blocks fast, scoring on seven of their first ten possessions. When Emory took its first timeout with 16:31 left in the first half, it already trailed by 8. Emory eventually cut the first-half lead down to three, but the Maroons then exploded to go up by as many as 12 and ended the half with a 40-29 lead. Chicago shot 56.7 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes, helping it succeed despite shooting an ugly 42.9 percent from the charity stripe.
Emory rebounded immediately in the second half, making this game a little too exciting for Chicago. In less than five minutes, the Maroons' first half lead had dwindled to two, and Emory was gaining still more momentum when Matt Smith hit a layup to tie the game at 55 with 11:13 to play while being fouled by Maroon third-year Scott Fisher. Smith missed the free throw, preserving the tie, and third-year Mike Lowney's feed to fourth-year Derek Reich reinstalled Chicago as the leader 23 seconds later. A 10-3 Maroon run ensued, with second-year Mike Dolezal contributing two three-pointers.
The breathing room, however, would disappear in the final minutes. After Eagle Clayton Fuller converted a layup to bring his team within one, at 71-72, with 31 seconds left on the clock, the Eagles elected to foul Chicago first-year Jay Morelock. Morelock missed the first of his pair, but knocked down the second to give the Maroons a two-point edge with 22 seconds left. Emory would not be able to tie the game up or go ahead, as point guard Rashawn Allen missed a jumper, and then center Chase Fawsett missed a put-back. Reich would finally collect the ball for the Maroons and ice a pair of free throws to seal the victory for Chicago.
After such a wild thriller as Friday's game, Sunday's blowout of Case Western Reserve must have been well received by the Maroons. Head coach Mike McGrath took the chance to rest his starters while giving his other players some league action. All 11 players eventually made it into the books with either a basket, an assist, or a steal (seven different Maroons were credited with at least one steal on Sunday). The team also shot a ridiculous 66.7 percent from the field during the game, and 60 percent from behind the arc. Reich led all scorers with 32 points in 27 minutes of play. His 17 rebounds, 11 against Emory and six against Case, also put him in the Chicago record books as the all-time leader for career rebounds, now with 828.
Both wins this weekend exhibited a beautiful balance of able scoring and consistently tenacious defense. In both games, four different Chicago players had double figures in scoring, continuing a trend of more spread-out scoring over the last few games. On the defensive side, Chicago held Emory to under 40 percent field goal shooting during the entire game and Case to just 41.6 percent.
The Maroons start a four-game home stand on Friday when the UAA Carnegie Mellon Tartans come to play at 8 p.m. at the Henry Crown Field House.