Over the winter break, Maroon Sports will have online coverage of the basketball teams' home games. Print coverage resumes Friday, January 8.
This past Saturday, men’s basketball (6–1) took down Kalamazoo (0–7) 68–62 at home, avenging another tough loss from their 2008–2009 campaign.
It was last December that Kalamazoo handed a struggling Chicago squad its seventh straight loss, which put the Maroons one step closet to their final 6–19 record. The story couldn't be more different this year: After Saturday's game, the Maroons already have six wins through their first seven contests.
Both teams came out trading early buckets and playing good defense. The Maroons worked the full court press early and forced the Hornets into taking extra time to get into their offensive set. This early pressure made Kalamazoo rush shots at the end of the shot clock and kept them off balance.
Head coach Mike McGrath noted that the full court press was "something the [Chicago] had been working on in general," and that it was "not specific for the game" against Kalamazoo. But it seemed that with the personnel match-ups—specifically the Hornets' lack of size compared to the Maroons—that the full court press was specifically put into play to prevent Kalamazoo's perimeter players from finding comfortable shooting lanes.
Fourth-year forward John Kinsella was the story of the first half for the Maroons, going 4–5 from three-point land and hitting both attempts from the foul line. The last of those three-pointers keyed a 12–4 run late in the half that put the Maroons up 37–30.
In the second half, Chicago slipped into the same mistakes which have made some of their games more dramatic than they should be. The Maroons committed seven turnovers in the final 20 minutes, and had another three minute scoring drought.
The Hornets got within a basket at the 7:53 mark, when they narrowed Chicago's lead to 57–55. But the Kalamazoo rally faltered after that: The Hornet managed just two more field goals, and Chicago hung on for the 68–62 victory.
Second-year forward Steve Stefanou had another strong performance, scoring 12 points and pulling down 10 boards for the double-double. Fourth-year guard Jake Pancratz scored 12 points, giving him 800 for his collegiate career, and contributed 8 assists, which makes him the sixth player in school history to collect 250 assists.
The most exciting aspect for this year’s team may be the fact that there remains room for improvement. The Maroons have at times been dogged by turnovers and cold spells on offense. But the chemistry is apparent when watching this group battle through the vicissitudes of on-court action (including the occasional errant call by the refs).
Chicago has a tough road test facing them today, as they travel to 18th-ranked Augustana (5–2). The Vikings can be excused their two early-season losses: The first came against DI-power Gonzaga last week, and the other was at Wash U, DIII's two-time defending national champion, this past weekend.