Needing to take care of business against the UAA’s two weakest squads, men’s hoops dialed long distance this weekend to pull into a tie with 10th-ranked Brandeis for second place in the conference.
In their final road trip of the regular season, the Maroons (15–7, 8–3 UAA) broke away late to take down Emory (10–12, 3–8) 87–73 Friday in Atlanta, then capped things off with a 29-point, 84–56 thrashing of Case (7–15, 0–11) Sunday in Cleveland.
As has been the case for most of the season, Chicago was powered on both ends of the court by the triumvirate of fourth-year forward Nate Hainje, third-year guard Matt Corning, and second-year point guard Jake Pancratz. All three players reached double figures in scoring for both games, and Hainje notched a pair of double-doubles and became only the 14th Maroon to tally 1,000 career points.
“I knew beforehand how many points I needed to get it, but I don’t really know when it happened,” Hainje said. “It’s nice to join an elite club of players, but it wasn’t a goal. I don’t like to set personal goals, so it was cool, but it wasn’t something on my mind at the beginning of the season.”
Showing off their long range power, the South Siders drove up the score by burying 15 three-pointers on 22 attempts in Atlanta, and then following those up with 14 more on 32 attempts in Sunday’s matinée in Cleveland.
The wins, coupled with two stunning defeats for sixth-ranked Rochester, helped break the gridlock atop the UAA standings and set the Maroons up with a possible UAA–title game rematch with Wash U (18–4, 8–2) in two weeks.
Taking the court against the against the low-flying Eagles in Coca-Cola country, the Maroons led by as many as nine in the first half, but a late flurry of activity from second-year forward Anthony Fernandez brought the hosts back into the contest and the Maroons entered intermission clinging to a 37–34 lead.
The contest remained tight over the opening minutes of the second half, with the visitors up by just four with 13:50 remaining. But an 8–1 run over the next three minutes, capped by a Corning bomb from distance, boosted the margin up to 11. The lead never slipped below eight the rest of the way as the Maroons iced the game on free throws, sinking their final 11 points from the charity stripe.
Although four Maroons hit double digits on the scoreboard, no one could touch Hainje’s performance. Not content to go into cruise control after reaching the 1,000-point milestone with his first-half layup, Hainje finished with a monstrous 23-point, 11-rebound line to carry the Maroons in both categories. Corning added 18 points of his own, including four treys, and Pancratz chipped in with 15 points, 9 of which came from the line.
Coming off the bench, second-year guard John Bonelli notched a career-high 12 points, all of them coming on three-point buckets.
“John’s always been our best three-point shooter,” Hainje said. “As the season’s gone along, he’s kind of become someone we can go to when we need a big three.”
Fernandez led the way offensively for Emory and all scorers with 24 points, while fourth-year guard Spiros Ferderigos added 22 points and 10 boards. The rest of the Eagles’ offense remained relatively quiet, allowing Chicago to steal away the 87–73 win.
Sunday’s matinée with the last-place Spartans played out as a repeat of Friday’s showdown. Winless in league play, the hosts never held a lead, and a 12–2 run opened up a 12-point gap for the Maroons with 7:33 left in the first half. Chicago kept its foot on the gas and led by double digits the rest of the way.
Up by 17 going into the locker room, the squad continued to rain threes after the break, and with less-used bench players seeing valuable UAA court time, stretched the lead to as much as 30 in the final minutes.
Fourth-year center Mason Conrad (18 points), second-year forward Anthony Durr (10), and first-year center Eric Duerr (10) all reached double figures in the Spartans’ losing cause.
With two weeks left in the regular season, the Maroons control their own destiny in their quest for at least a share of their second consecutive UAA title. The Maroons kick off next weekend with a tough Friday matchup at Ratner against NYU (15–7, 6–5), then ready themselves for a must-win court date with the second-place Judges (18–4, 8–3) Sunday. Chicago won the earlier meeting in Boston 79–77 in overtime, but since a three-game swoon at the end of January, Brandeis hasn’t lost.
“They’re very different teams. NYU runs kind of a Princeton offense, similar to Northwestern,” Hainje said. “It’ll be a lot of sitting down, playing defense for all 35 seconds of the shot clock.
“Brandeis is more guard-oriented, looking to push the ball offensively. We just have to come and play our game.”