February 16, 2010

Men's basketball stumbles in road finales with close losses to NYU, Brandeis

After another rough weekend trip, the Maroons are finally home for good.

Men’s basketball (11–11, 5–6) fell in the last two-game road swing of the season, losing 71–66 to NYU (15–7, 6–5) in a tough game that went down to the final minute, and then dropping an 83–71 decision to Brandeis (17–5, 7–4), where the Maroons were never able to get over the hump. This pair of setbacks puts Chicago into a fifth-place tie in the UAA with only three home games left to play.

“The UAA is such a tough conference, and you have to maintain and prepare yourself for every game,” head coach Mike McGrath said. “We played well in stretches, but we weren’t able to sustain our good play.”

The Maroons kept up with NYU in a tense, back-and-forth affair only to falter in the waning moments. Guard Omar Meziab nailed a three-pointer with 48.8 seconds left to break a 64–64 tie and give NYU the lead for good. Meziab went on to trade a pair of free throws with fourth-year forward John Kinsella to preserve the three-point lead with 21 seconds left. After that point, the Maroons had two more chances at the foul line, but missed the front end of the one-and-one both times. NYU forward Richie Polan tacked on two more free throws to reach the final tally.

Earlier, Chicago had opened up a 50–45 lead through a stretch in the second half that featured two three-pointers from fourth-year guard Jake Pancratz. The five-point margin was the largest held by either team throughout the game, which featured 19 lead changes and eight ties.

“We have to take better command of the game in order to win on the road,” McGrath said. “We can’t rely on the officials or the opposing team to bail us out.”

Pancratz paced the Maroons with 19 points and five assists while shooting 5-of-10 from beyond the arc, and Polan led NYU with 16 points and six rebounds.

Sunday, in the game against 21st-ranked Brandeis, Chicago was never able to recover from its 41–31 deficit at the half, despite a starring performance from Kinsella.

Kinsella contributed a season-best 25 points and connected on seven treys, including one that capped off an 11–5 run to start the second half and cut the lead to four. However, forward Terrell Hollins responded with a put-back for Brandeis, and two subsequent free throws by guard Tyrone Hughes pushed the lead back up to eight. The Maroons were later able to cut the lead to five on several occasions, but they never got any closer.

Hollins notched 12 points, 13 rebounds, and four steals and was one of five Brandeis players to reach double-digit scoring.

Pancratz poured in another 19 points and six assists, as he and Kinsella all but carried Chicago for most of the game.

“John and Jake were fantastic,” McGrath said. “But I don’t think we supported them as well as we should have.”

With the last of the road games behind them, the Maroons will finish up the season with a three-game home stand. It will mark the final games for the squad’s four graduating fourth-years, Pancratz, Kinsella, guard John Bonelli, and forward Marek Kowalewski.

“Aside from playing together and getting better as a team, our goal is also to make sure that our fourth-years have a great ending to their careers,” McGrath said. “And a big part of that is winning games.”