January 23, 2007

Men ride outsdie shooting in routs

Breaking UAA scoring records and setting season-high points totals, the Maroons’ high-powered offense made it look easy as they led men’s basketball to wins over Carnegie Mellon and Rochester in front of packed crowds at Ratner.

Breaking into triple digits for the first time in three years Friday, the home team (13–3, 4–1) downed the Tartans (9–6, 2–3) 100–69 in front of a raucous Beach Night–themed crowd. Riding this wave of success into Sunday’s matinee, Chicago sank 17 three-pointers against Rochester (11–5, 2–3) to set the UAA season high and top the Yellowjackets 81–74.

Playing amid a sea of leis for last Friday’s festivities, fourth-year guard Drew Adams drained a three in the first seconds to give Chicago an early lead, one that was challenged only when second-year Ryan Einwag sank seven points inside of a minute, putting his squad ahead 12–11.

Quickly countering, the Maroons held the Tartans to only free throw shots for the next 10 minutes, retaking the lead off a rush of layups from third-year forward Matt Corning and quickly widening it to a 37–16 gap.

“Defensively we worked hard to fight both teams in the post and make them score over us,” head coach Mike McGrath said. “We were effective in this effort.”

Chicago’s stifling defense not only limited the visitors to scoring only from the line for a 10-minute span, but they also left Carnegie’s players struggling for air as a lack of open space left them running up the shot clock in search of rare holes.

Shooting 54 percent for the half and 50 percent from the three-point line, the Maroons’ offense closed the first half up 52–32 on the shoulders of fourth-year guard Jesse Meyer, the game’s offensive leader with 16 points.

Continuing the South Siders’ dominance after the break, third-year forward Nate Hainje picked up seven points in the first two minutes as Chicago went up 68–35. Frequent subs kept the Maroons fresh as a tired Carnegie defense struggled to stop their offensive onslaught.

Giving the home team their largest lead of the game, third-year forward Zach Sheline hit a trey to make it 89–54 before notching the game’s final point to bring the score into the triple digits.

“Shooting the ball well from the perimeter opened up a lot for our offense,” McGrath said, citing reasons behind the Maroons’ high point total. “Our ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter allows for great floor spacing, which opens up other things.”

Facing off against Rochester on Sunday, Chicago lost the tip and watched the Yellowjackets drain two quick baskets. But this lead was the best the visitors could do, as a three-pointer from Adams put the Maroons up 8–7 in the third minute, marking the final lead change of the game.

Chicago hit almost entirely treys in the opening stanza, shooting 68.4 percent from the perimeter. Frequent, rapid passing let the Maroons keep possession in enemy territory until the slots opened up for Hainje and Meyer to work their three-point magic.

Building a 49–35 lead before the half, the squad came out for the second intent on keeping their superiority intact, managing to keep the margin in the double digits for all but the final minutes of the game.

Stifled for the first minutes by Rochester’s refreshed defense, Chicago searched for baskets, but a downtown bomb from Meyer found the team’s rhythm again, and the following scoring explosion extended the Maroons’ lead to 23.

Staying perfect, Meyer, the game’s offensive leader with 24 points, made each of his shots count, hitting eight for eight overall and six for six on the three-point line. Hainje and fourth-year guard Brandon Woodhead followed close behind with 19 and 16 points.

As the contest ended, a revitalized Rochester offense pieced together a rally, chipping 16 points off the deficit against Chicago’s bench players. But there wasn’t enough time remaining for any real damage to be done, and Chicago came out on top, 81–74.

The weekend’s back-to-back wins put the Maroons’ winning streak at four games, their highest so far this season. With a strong momentum building into the final weeks of regular season conference competition, maintaining the solid play seen over the weekend will be necessary to push the team into national rankings and a strong postseason seeding.

“The season is a long one,” McGrath said. “Just two weeks ago, we were highly concerned after the loss to Wash U. You have to try to keep some balance to the highs and lows of the season to win the race.”