While it may not be Honolulu or Cancun, the atmosphere at Ratner is always a little different on Beach Night, with spectators sporting leis, getting low in halftime limbo, and munching pineapple pizza.
Men’s basketball (6–6, 0–1) will try to keep those fans happy and end their recent five-game losing streak when they take on NYU (10–2, 1–0) tonight. In the latter half of the two-game home stand, the Maroons will host Brandeis (9–2, 0–1) at noon Sunday.
“Beach Night is a great evening of fun for students, and we definitely want to win that game to make it more fun for the fans,” head coach Mike McGrath said.
“There’s extra energy in the building during Beach Night, and I think our team really picks up on that energy,” assistant coach Drew Adams said.
That boost might be crucial if the team is to stop its recent slide. The Maroons have lost their last five games, the most recent of which was a 64–60 loss to third-ranked Wash U in the UAA opener. It was a solid performance considering the opponent, but the coaches see room for improvement.
“We had a few stretches where we had some mental lapses on offense—missing some easy shots and making a few careless turnovers—that you just can’t have if you’re going to beat a team like [Wash U],” Adams said.
The Maroons believe the key to ending this skid is to remain confident and execute their game plan.
“We have talented players and great senior leadership, so we just need to stay confident and keep working to get better,” Adams said. “A performance like last Saturday was a step in the right direction, and if we can build on that and play well this weekend, I think we can get things turned around fairly quickly.”
Another step towards getting back on the winning track will be to play stronger with more physical defense.
“We need to battle them physically. Rebounding and defensive execution will be keys because they are so big and strong,” McGrath said.
Defensive consistency will be especially crucial as they square off against an NYU squad that averages over 73 points per game and has four players averaging more than 10 points per game.
“We had a two-minute stretch in which we allowed Wash U to score too easily,” McGrath said. “We need to avoid stretches like that, which have been a big factor in our losing streak.”
NYU poses a particularly tough defensive assignment with their explosive, dual-threat big men. The four main contributors in the front court combined for 63 points of a 99-point offensive outburst on Monday against Wesleyan in the Violets’ previous game.
“NYU is a tough matchup because their post players are very good scorers in the paint, but also they are also their team’s best shooters from [the three-point line],” Adams said.
Chicago has put in extra preparation in practice this week to defend NYU’s unique Princeton offense, which relies heavily upon ball movement, screens, and backdoor cuts designed to create space for players and easy baskets close to the hoop.
“[The Princeton offense] is always a challenge to prepare for. We’ll need to be sure that we control the tempo and play at our pace instead of their pace,” Adams said.
With their work in practice this week and the momentum from their strong showing against Wash U already on the Maroons’ side, the team is hoping the Beach Night atmosphere will be enough to put them over the top tonight against the Violets.
“The team always appreciates the support of their fellow students, and an enthusiastic fan base always inspires better play,” McGrath said.