March 3, 2009

High-octane Wash U offense outclasses Chicago in season finale

Saturday afternoon’s UAA matchup featured a pair of teams heading in divergent paths.Second-ranked Washington (23–2, 13–1) used the game as a tune-up for a possibly deep NCAA tournament that kicks off this Thursday against Lawrence University. On the other hand, Chicago (6–19, 6–9) entered the contest hoping to close a forgettable 2008–09 campaign with a competitive showing against a talented Bears squad.Playing before a capacity crowd of more than a thousand at the Washington University Field House, the Bears defended their home court in flawless fashion, defeating the Maroons 72–49.The opening stanza was disastrous for a reeling Chicago team, with the Maroons finding themselves down 14–0 only six minutes into the contest. Of the seven field goals Washington converted in that span, five were layups.The most impressive aspect of the home team’s performance was the relentlessness with which they attacked the opposition. They not only established and held a massive early lead, but they managed to stretch it throughout the game.“They are one of the best passing teams I’ve ever seen,” head coach Mike McGrath said. “They ran their offense very well and on defense, they used their length and athleticism to disrupt everything we tried to do.”The closest Chicago came was at the 12-minute mark of the first half, chipping away at the lead to make it 21–11.Washington’s response was emphatic: the Bears went on to outscore the Maroons 22–11 for the rest of the half, tightening their grip on the game, and heading into the break with a 43–22 lead.The first-half shooting numbers touched on both sides of the spectrum. Chicago posted a dismal 32 percent from the field, while Washington converted on a blistering 56.3 percent of its attempts. Without factoring in any of the errant treys, the Bears’ percentage on two-point field goals alone stood at an inconceivable 72.7 percent.Despite struggling from beyond the arc, both clubs continued to launch from distance, combining for a chilly 22 percent from deep on 9–41 attempts.The second half proved to be more of the same, as Washington succeeded in maintaining at least a 21-point advantage for the rest of the contest.Things got a bit testy at the 11:40 mark when, Washington’s lead having ballooned to 28, McGrath received a technical foul for arguing with the officials after a long stretch of what he deemed questionable calls in the Bears’ favor. His protest, however, was effective as the Maroons earned seven trips to the line in the game’s final 10 minutes.While the Bears still hung 72 points on the Maroons, the most points they’ve ceded in a single game in the month of February, it is important to note that Chicago elevated its defensive intensity in the second half. “We came out with a much better defensive effort and we were quicker to the ball,” McGrath said. “The break seemed to help throw them out of their offensive rhythm.”The Maroons held the explosive Washington squad to only 29 points in the second period on 27.3-percent shooting, dropping their game average to a pedestrian 41.5 percent. Chicago’s shooting woes, however, continued in the second half, as they concluded the game shooting 31.4 percent from the field.Crucial to the Bears’ ability to sustain their second-half lead was the outcome of the rebounding battle. Washington held a 44–37 advantage on the glass, and was able to compensate for its poor shooting by grabbing a staggering 16 offensive boards. Crucial to the Bears’ ability to sustain their second-half lead was the outcome of the rebounding battle. Washington held a 44–37 advantage on the glass, and was able to compensate for its poor shooting by grabbing a staggering 16 offensive boards. The Maroons didn’t handle the ball exceptionally well either, amassing 20 turnovers to only 10 assists.A week earlier, the Bears had their 13-game win-streak snapped by Rochester in a shocking 69–70 upset on their home court, the only blemish on their UAA resume. Washington, which finished last season by winning the 2008 NCAA Division III National Championship, also wrapped up the UAA Championship.The Bears were led by their lone senior member, guard Sean Wallis, who made up for an off-night from the field by handing out 11 helpers and only turning the ball over twice. Forward Tyler Nading also chipped in with 13 points, six rebounds, and a pair of blocks.For Chicago, playing without fourth-year guard Matt Corning for the sixth straight game, contribution was a necessity from all spots on the floor. However, fourth-year forward Adam Machones had a quiet game, netting just nine points on 3–8 shooting and grabbing four rebounds, while first-year guard Michael Sustarsic added five points, four rebounds, and three assists, shooting an abysmal 1–8 from beyond the arc.“After the game, Adam and Tom [Watson] shared some words in the locker room,” McGrath said. “They reminded everyone that we never stopped working and never quit, that we were still a unified team.”In the off-season, the Maroons hope to develop their young talent, with eight first-years returning from this season’s squad.“As we hit the practice floor in the off-season, we want to build on this season’s effort,” McGrath said.