A convincing win over Rochester Friday night gave men’s basketball a taste of .500 for the first time this season, but a loss Sunday meant it would only be a bite-sized sample.
Solid outside shooting carried Chicago to a 74–54 victory over the visiting Yellowjackets (16–8, 7–6) Friday, giving the Maroons (6–18, 6–7) a share of fourth in the UAA and a 6–6 conference record. Two days later, however, Carnegie’s fast-paced offense overwhelmed the South Siders, as the Tartans (18–6, 8–5) claimed a 68–56 win.
The Maroons expected two very different games against teams that already had wins over Chicago earlier this season. Rochester, known for a methodical offense that revolves around veteran guard Mike Chmielowiec, came to town Friday, and Carnegie followed Sunday with its fast-paced, high-pressure squad that features another talented scorer in guard Ryan Einwag.
Rochester lived up to its reputation early on Friday night, working deep into the shot clock and running its offense mostly through Chmielowiec, who leads the UAA in scoring with 23.9 points per game in UAA play. The Maroons, however, had prepared for the Yellowjackets’ screen-heavy offense.
“I thought for the most part… we did a really good job of keeping him under wraps,” head coach Mike McGrath said. “I just felt like we did that very, very well…. Our defensive positioning was outstanding for most of the night.”
Chicago’s offense lacked creativity at times early on, but third-year guard Jake Pancratz injected some confidence into his team’s offensive attack.
Pancratz knocked down all four of his attempts from downtown in the first half, scoring 14 of Chicago’s first 22 points and helping Chicago to a 29–25 lead at the break.
“I was getting some good looks and they were dropping, so the guys were running stuff for me,” Pancratz said. “They kept dropping so I kept putting them up.”
The Maroons’ offense got going quickly in the second half, building a double-digit lead on the strength of a 12–4 run to start the period.
The Yellowjackets weren’t done, though. Down 41–29 at the 14:58 mark, Rochester mounted a quick comeback and was only trailing 44–38 with 11:51 remaining.
“I feel like earlier in the year, things happened in that game that we would not have dealt with as well in terms of overall mentality,” McGrath said, “whereas now, we’re in a position to find a way to win a game like that.”
Showing some of that development, Chicago finally turned back Rochester’s surge and established a comfortable lead, one that the visitors couldn’t chip away at for the rest of the contest, and the Maroons went home with a 74–54 win.
Pancratz’s 17 points led all scorers, and third-year forward John Kinsella scored 13.
With a faster-paced Carnegie squad in town for the next game, Sunday afternoon featured a similar feeling-out process in the early going, and the score sat at just 2–2 after four minutes of play.
Despite poor shooting near the start of the contest, the Maroons were able to establish a 14–9 lead at the 11:57 mark.
Forward Ryan Einwag, though, had his say before the Maroons could extend a lead.
After working in the post for most of the first eight minutes, Einwag, the conference’s third-best scorer with 16.8 points per UAA contest, stepped out beyond the arc and knocked down three straight three-pointers to give his team an 18–16 lead.
“There’s no one area where you can go and say this is how we’re going to take him out of it,” McGrath said of Einwag, who has averaged 16.8 points a game in UAA play.
The Maroons’ shooting struggles continued, and a scrappy Carnegie squad held Chicago without a field goal for a 7:20 stretch in the first half, and the Tartans established a nine-point lead by the break.
“We came out with pretty good energy and everything,” Pancratz said. “We let our offense affect our defense. We weren’t hitting some shots we knew we could hit, so that kind of carried over.”
Beginning slow after the break, Chicago found itself down by 13 at the 15:02 mark. Over the next five minutes, however, the Maroons chipped away at Carnegie’s lead, eventually pulling to within four at 48–44.
Still, the Maroons struggled to contain Einwag and fellow veteran Corey O’Rourke. Einwag finished the afternoon with 25 points, while O’Rourke overpowered the Maroons’s guards for 17 points, nine boards, and six assists, all while frustrating Chicago with his defense.
“He’s a big, strong guard, and he played pretty much the whole game,” Pancratz said. “Even though we’d be in the right position, he’d use his strengths and draw two and drop it to his post or just power through.”
With their offense out of sync, the Maroons watched Carnegie’s lead run up to 12, and the hosts were never able to cut it back below seven.
“Carnegie played a really good game. They played really hard, and we didn’t compete with as much energy as we needed to,” McGrath said.
Kinsella led the Maroons with 16 points, with fourth-year forward Adam Machones chipping in 13 points and eight rebounds.
Chicago’s final game of the season will be at Wash U this Saturday.