November 22, 2013

Offense hopes to find groove in two-game weekend slate

Chicago’s (1–1) start to the season has been a strange one. After a 76–56 loss against Augustana (4–0) and a 99–54 destruction of Lake Forest (1–1) in their home opener, trying to get a read on how the season will shake out for this Maroon squad hasn’t been easy.

This well-rounded Chicago team only lost one fourth-year (center Matt McKenzie (A.B. '13)) from last season, so the team chemistry hasn’t been a problem this year. A transformed offense has proven to be an obstacle in the team’s improvement, but it has a lot of potential.

“We’re still working out some kinks with the new offense,” said fourth-year forward Sam Gage. “We work on it every day, so we’ll undoubtedly get better. It suits our personnel very well. It allows for our bigger wings to get post touches and is conducive for us getting out into transition.”

Gage finished with nine points and four rebounds in the win over Lake Forest, a game in which the offense proved effective, and 10 players scored over seven points.

“I think our biggest strength is our depth. We go at least two deep at every position, and the guys coming off the bench all add something out on the floor,” Gage said.

Chicago will have to use its depth to its advantage this weekend in the Lopata Classic at Wash U. The Maroons will face Whitman (0–0) on Friday and Rose-Hulman (0–0) on Saturday.

Although neither Whitman or Rose-Hulman have played yet this season, they finished 19–8 and 24–4 last season, respectively. Fourth-year forward Charlie Hughes isn’t worried.

“I feel good going into this weekend,” Hughes said. “We’ve got the talent to play with anyone, and hopefully that will show in both games.”

In addition to becoming comfortable with the new offense, Chicago has a few more roadblocks to overcome as well.

“Our biggest weakness has been sustaining effort and focus for long periods of time. I think a lot of it is mental, and we’ll get better,” Gage said.

Whitman scored over 90 points in 13 of its 27 games last season, so the game against the Missionaries will likely be high scoring, especially if the Maroon offense, led by Hughes and third-year point guard Royce Muskeyvalley, clicks as it did against Lake Forest.

“We are going to have to stay composed,” Gage said. “There will be times during the games when the other team makes a run. We have to make a conscious effort to stay calm and stay together when those runs inevitably happen.”

Chicago tips off against Whitman on Friday at 6 p.m. and the Rose-Hulman Fightin’ Engineers on Saturday at the same time.