February 3, 2009

Corning sparks victory at NYU, but Maroons' troubles resume against Brandeis

[img id="77222" align="alignleft"] Last weekend’s hoops double-header, featuring two UAA matchups in three days for men’s basketball, encompassed both the highs and lows of Chicago’s season.

Visiting NYU (13–5, 2–5) on Friday, the Maroons were able to pull out their second victory of the 2008–2009 campaign, 69–62.

The Maroons (2­–16, 2–5) hung in with the Violets for most of the first half, trailing only 27–26 at intermission. The shooting was equally mediocre on both ends, with each team posting a humble shooting percentage in the mid-30s.

The second half, however, proved to be a different story, as both teams impressed from the field, with Chicago shooting nearly 54 percent to one-up NYU’s 52 percent output. Yet, it was the Violets who burst enthusiastically from the locker room, taking a comfortable 42–33 lead early in the second stanza.

“NYU got off to a quick start, but the team regrouped and started to have more focus defensively,” head coach Mike McGrath said. “We made some shots during the stretch when our defense was weak to stay within striking distance.”

The Maroons seemed to find their groove late in the game, clawing back from that nine-point deficit to seize their first lead of the second half 59–58 on a three-pointer by first-year guard Michael Sustarsic with 4:30 left in the game.

Almost immediately, NYU regained the lead at the 2:30 mark, holding a slim 62–61 advantage. In a change of style and pace, Chicago turned up the defense to hold the Violets scoreless for the final stretch of the game.

The Maroons gained a 63–62 lead that they would not relinquish after third-year forward John Kinsella converted a pair of free throws with 1:19 to go, and Chicago closed the game with an 8–0 run.

Fourth-year guard Matt Corning scored a game-high 23 points and hit 9 of 11 from the charity stripe, including four clutch conversions in the final minute of the game.

Kinsella and fourth-year forward Adam Machones combined for 31 points on 11–20 shooting for Chicago’s frontline, neutralizing double-digit scoring efforts from four NYU players.

In Sunday afternoon’s contest at Brandeis (12–6, 5–2), Chicago concluded its promising weekend on a sour note, as the Judges dominated Chicago 67–36.

The 31-point drubbing at the Red Auerbach Arena, however, did not seem imminent at the outset, with Chicago holding tight at 13–10 near the 6:30 mark. After engineering a critical 14–2 run to close out the half, Brandeis, holding a commanding 27–12 lead, sent the Maroons into the locker room reeling.

“The game was tight until we turned the ball over, and Brandeis hit a couple of shots late in the clock to contribute to their halftime lead,” McGrath said.

Chicago’s first-half statistics were dismal, summarized by the team’s horrendous 16.7-percent shooting in the face of Brandeis’s frustrating matchup zone defense.

Brandeis would not let up, improving on its subpar 28.6-percent mark from the arc in the first half by posting a stifling 45.5-percent three-point output in the second half, while Chicago neared 24 percent from three for the game.

First-year forward Vytas Kriskus led the Judges with 15 points in only 18 minutes of play off the bench.

The Judges were able to sustain their commanding lead by holding at least a 20-point advantage for the final 15 minutes of the contest. One of the most telling statistics of the game was the turnover disparity as Chicago lost the ball 19 times to Brandeis’s 10, due in large part to the Judges’ astounding 13 steals.

Maroon starters shot a combined 7–26 from the field, with Kinsella scoring 13 points.

Chicago’s struggles were widespread, losing the rebounding battle 37­­–31 and shooting 58.3 percent from the line, in stark contrast to its 83.3-percent performance at NYU.

These two teams meet again Friday, with the Maroons hoping that a bit of home cooking could change the outcome this time around. They look to improve upon Sunday’s performance by emphasizing cuts and ball movement to counteract the zone Brandeis employs.

“Our goal is to work hard and get better every day,” McGrath said. “The results so far have been disappointing, but it has not affected that focus.”