February 12, 2013

South Siders, facing Rochester and Emory, suffer another pair of conference losses

Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

The Maroons (10–12, 4–7 UAA) came close in both of their games this past weekend: close to beating fourth-ranked Rochester (20–2, 9–2) and close to finishing a comeback and taking the lead from Emory (15–6, 7–4), who eventually pulled far away from Chicago.

On Friday, the Maroons played strong defense on Rochester’s star player John DiBartolomeo, but fell by a score of 68–57. Chicago held DiBartolomeo to 10 points—far below his 22.8 average—with its aggressive pick-and-roll defense.

The Maroons opened up an early 14–6 lead and kept up the strong play through the first half, led by third-year forward Charlie Hughes and second-year center Ian Joyce, who each scored seven points in the half to put Chicago in front 29–26.

Second-year point guard Royce Muskeyvally took up some of the offensive load in the second half, helping to secure a 42–36 Maroon lead with 13 minutes remaining. However, the nationally-ranked Yellowjackets took control by attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line. They sunk 20 of 26 foul shots in the second half and left with a 68–57 win.

Chicago was led by Muskeyvalley’s 18 points and Hughes’ 11 points and seven rebounds. The Maroons played tough against one of the best teams in the country but just couldn’t finish the game.

“I think we showed that we can play with anyone when we are playing well,” said fourth-year forward Matt MacKenzie, who played 18 minutes in Friday’s contest. “The problem we have had this season is sustaining that level of play for all 40 minutes.”

Against Emory, the Maroons showed spurts of greatness but didn’t compete as well as they did against Rochester.

Emory came out on fire, building a 30–9 lead while playing stifling defense on the Maroons’ guards.

However, the Chicago point guards, Muskeyvalley and third-year Wayne Simon, sparked Chicago, leading the charge to cut the deficit to 10. They entered the half down 40–30.

Unfortunately, their scoring came off one-on-one play. That didn’t help the offensive flow, which was nonexistent on Chicago’s side for most of the game.

MacKenzie thinks the team’s chemistry could’ve been better.

“We have to work on staying together when things don’t go our way,” he said. “It’s easy to play together and have fun when you’re playing well as a team; it’s much harder to do so when you aren’t making shots or getting calls.”

Chicago cut the lead to 42–37 early in the second, but Emory responded by channeling its early first-half play. The Eagles went on a 14–5 run and never looked back, sprinting to an 82–59 victory.

“We’ve always had problems dealing with that Emory team,” head coach Mike McGrath said after the game. Chicago lost to Emory by a similar score of 79–48 in its first meeting this year on January 13.

The Maroons were led by Hughes (11 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) and third-year forward Sam Gage (10 points, 4 rebounds).

Sunday’s game was lone fourth-year MacKenzie’s final time playing on his home court. The game didn’t feel much different, although he suspects it will in hindsight.

“It certainly was a little odd telling myself that this was the last home game. However, it didn’t really feel much different from any other home game,” he said. “I’m sure looking back later it’ll be different, but we still have three games left to play, so I’m more focused on those and trying to finish the season off right.”

The Maroons take on Brandeis next. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. this Friday in Boston.