January 14, 2003

Men's basketball struggles against #1 Washington University

The Maroon men could not muster an upset in their first UAA game against top-ranked Washington University on Saturday, as Chicago fell to the Bears at home, 56-75. The Maroons (4-8, 0-1 in conference play) were a heavy underdog going into the league opener, and the Bears never seemed to feel threatened at any point in the game. "They [the Bears] are a really good team," Chicago head coach Mike McGrath said after the game. "We had a pretty good run in the second half...but they didn't let it bother them. They just remained very composed."

The Bears took control of the game right from the jump, holding the Maroons scoreless for the first six minutes of the game. By the time second-year Justin Waldie hit a jumper for the Maroons' first points, they already trailed by 11. The Maroons remained paralyzed by the Bears for most of the half. Three of the five starters, including captain Derek Reich, had no field goals in the opening period and between them managed only two points off a pair of free throws. It was the play of third-year Scott Fisher and the bench support of Waldie that kept the Maroons from finding themselves in a bigger hole. Fisher had eight points in the first half and Waldie was a perfect 3-3 to earn seven points in eight minutes of first-half play.

The Bears' 15 point lead expanded to 20, but the tide immediately turned the Maroon's way as Chicago went on a 13-2 run and cut the Washington lead to 9 with just under 15 minutes left. The Maroons had a chance to come even closer but couldn't capitalize on its opportunities as the Bears once more pulled away.

Most impressive in the second half was the Maroons' aggressive defense. Helped out by Waldie and fellow second-year Bryan Fitzgerald, Chicago significantly slowed the Bears' offense. The Maroons looked very strong at times, with men coming off their own marks to help double down and force a number of turnovers and poor shots.

In the end the Maroons lost because of a problem they've had all year: lack of offensive production. The offense is still not cohesive and is making a number of errant passes. Set plays fail to be executed crisply enough, and the team is demonstrating youth and inexperience in the opponent's half. "There are still a few players that need to get comfortable," McGrath explained.

Perhaps the most drastic difference between the two teams is the play of the guards. Washington created a number of chances as its guards cut aggressively to the basket, forcing a double team and dishing it off to the open teammate for the easy basket. Chicago did not have similar success. The guards failed to drive often enough and allowed Washington to double team underneath. "We had trouble handling the double post," third-year guard Mike Lowney said. "Our effort just wasn't there on defense, me included."

Lowney is not the only one to mention the Maroons' lack of effort. With post-season hopes all but gone, it seems at times that the team is too willing to give up. At the end of the game, McGrath, recognizing the game was out of reach, put some of the younger non-starters into the game for some experience. With 30 seconds left, freshmen guard Jay Morelock opted to run the clock out rather than set one more play. While a basket would have had no effect on the outcome of the game at that point, the kind of attitude inherent in that play is at best unhealthy. The Maroons will have to deal with this issue once more when they host UAA rival Emory on Friday.