On January 25, New York University handed the Maroon men's basketball team a critical conference loss. This past Friday, Chicago returned the favor.
With the travails of playing on the road finally over, the men's basketball team returned home for two University Athletic Association matches last weekend, hoping to add to its dominating 9-2 record at the Ratner Center.
Despite no chance of making the postseason, Chicago had a chance to spoil the playoff hopes of UAA rival NYU, who at the time was a bubble team at 18-4 (7-4 in the UAA) that needed to sweep its remaining games to get a chance at an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.
The game started out in typical Chicago fashion, as both teams shot poorly from the field. Chicago shot just 31 percent in the first half but did get some scoring from an unexpected source.
First-year guard Jesse Meyer came off the bench and connected on two 3-pointers in the closing minutes of the first half as the Maroons rallied from a slight deficit to take a 28-26 halftime lead. Prior to the game, Meyer had hit seven 3s and collected 24 total points.
The second half belonged to the Maroons as they shot just under 62 percent, led by third-year forward Mike Dolezal, who scored 11 of his team-high 16 points in the first six and a half minutes of the second half. Dolezal connected on two 3-pointers that gave the Maroons some much needed momentum.
Led by Dolezal and fourth-year Scott Fisher, who scored 12 points, the Maroons went on a 20-4 run to put the game in the bag. The team led by more than 12 points for the rest of the game. Chicago eventually won, 68-53.
"It felt good to win this one and most likely take away NYU's chance at a bid," Fisher said.
Dolezal added, "If we played all year like we did in the second half, we'd be the ones competing for a bid, not them."
Sunday brought more good shooting from the Maroons as they took on Brandeis University. Led once again by the front-court duo of Fisher and Dolezal, who scored 16 and 12 points respectively, Chicago built a halftime lead of 34-24.
12 different players scored for the Maroons, who shot just under 50 percent from the field, including an excellent 8 of 17 from three-point range. The team never trailed in the second half and won by a final of 73-51.
"The play from our younger guys, especially the guards, has really given us confidence for the rest of this year and into next year," said head coach Mike McGrath. "With Scott [Fisher] graduating, we lose our dominating low-post presence and will have to rely on our outside game next season."
Particularly impressive down the stretch has been first-year Meyer. He plays with confidence whenever he is on the court and is not afraid to shoot. If he continues to improve, he will be a serious contributor in the backcourt along with third-year Justin Waldie, who has emerged this year as a serious scorer.
The Maroons close out the year with a match against archrival Washington University this Saturday night at the Ratner Center.