This weekend’s Midway Classic had the Maroons looking to start the regular season strong at their home tournament, but the event would prove to be only halfway classic for its defending champions.
Finishing second overall, the Maroons (1–1) overwhelmed Lake Forest 70–59 Saturday night but stumbled offensively in the second half of Sunday, losing 63–58 to Trinity.
Leading the way in the front court all weekend for the Maroons, fourth-year guard Matt Corning contributed 19 points against Lake Forest (0–2) and 17 against Trinity (2–0), and fourth-year forward Nate Hainje earned all-tournament honors.
“I was a little disappointed. I felt like we didn’t perform up to our expectations,” head coach Mike McGrath said. “The one thing I liked was that we learned a lot about ourselves and what we need to improve on.”
Chicago began its weekend against Lake Forest, a squad that the South Siders handled soundly last season in a 66–39 victory. The Maroons never trailed in Saturday’s game.
After a brief tie at 19–19 midway through the half, the home team broke away on a 7–0 run, with Corning chipping in five of those points.
“We have a lot of weapons on our side. We started to click
offensively there at the end,” Corning said.
A 10–0 run that carried from the end of the first half and into the second gave the South Siders a seemingly comfortable 47–29 lead. However, the Tigers raced back into the contest, chopping the lead to six on a trey from second-year guard Victory Campbell.
Following a Maroon timeout, Corning sunk two free throws and second-year guard Jake Pancratz followed up with a lay-up to create some breathing room.
Lake Forest stayed within striking distance with the score sitting at 64–55 with just under four minutes remaining. Hainje responded by scoring the Maroons’ final six points, four coming from perfect free-throw shooting in the closing minutes. The South Siders hit all 10 of their free throws in the final 6:32.
A 44-percent shooting effort helped the Maroons hold off the Foresters, but that shooting dropped off the in the championship game against Trinity: Chicago struggled in the second half and shot 35 percent overall.
The first half featured a balanced offense, with seven Maroons getting on the board. Trinity, which defeated Ohio Wesleyan (1–1) 64–53 to advance to the championship, held Hainje to just three first-half points after drawing two fouls on the six-foot-five forward within one minute halfway through the first period.
Second-year forward John Kinsella and fourth-year forward Zach Sheline came off the bench to fill the void, chipping in six and five points, respectively, to go with Corning’s seven.
“John Kinsella gave us some very good minutes. I was excited about that,” McGrath said, also noting the strong performance of the Maroon bench as a whole. “We need to get contributions from the bench, so I was definitely pleased with that.”
Down by five with just over nine minutes left in the half, the Maroons charged back. The South Siders took a five-point lead of their own with two minutes remaining in the half before cradling a one-point advantage at the break.
“We went to the half feeling like it was going to be a hell of a game, but one that we could win,” McGrath said.
Both teams kept up the pace coming out of the locker room, staying neck and neck for the first 15 minutes of a period that featured seven lead changes and two ties.
However, third-year guard B.J. Moon carried the Tigers on four-for-four shooting from downtown. His three-pointer with 4:53 remaining put Trinity on top for good.
“They came out in the second half and put a lot of pressure on us,” Corning said, noting the Tigers’ frequent double-teaming. “Their defense was very unorthodox, and I think that threw us for a loop.”
Hainje, quiet for most of the night, hit two free throws to bring the Maroons to within three points, but first-year forward Luke Caldarera scored the next four points to seal Trinity’s victory.
“We always feel like we have a chance to win,” Corning said. “As a team, we’re confident; as individuals, we’re all good basketball players, and we’re confident in what we can do.”
Finishing the tournament with 24 total points, Hainje faced foul trouble early in Sunday’s contest and cold shooting in the second half.
“He’s going to be the focus of other teams’ defensive efforts, and that’s something we need to pay attention to,” McGrath said. “If they focus on him, he needs to be ready to make plays for other people, and we need him to make plays over the course of the whole game.”
Chicago now has a week off before their next game, a contest against Transylvania (1–1) in the DePauw Tournament on Saturday.