January 10, 2012

Chicago falls in hoops opener

The Maroons (7–5, 0–1 UAA) did all but win in Saturday’s UAA opener at Wash U (9–3, 1–0 UAA).

In spite of taking control of the first half, leading 41–36, the Maroons were outscored 43–31 in the second half, resulting in a 79–72 loss.

Even with Wash U’s undefeated record at home, fourth-year guard Tommy Sotos said that while the Maroons played well, they did not play great.

“That’s probably as tough a place as there is in our conference to go get a win when they have a good team,” Sotos said. “[It’s] a really tough place, and they’re a good team this year; they really are.”

Offensively, the Maroons saw themselves relying heavily on shots from behind the arc throughout the game. In the first half they shot 50 percent from three-point range, sinking eight of 16.

In the second half, the Maroons ran into trouble. Chicago converted on just two of its 13 attempts, with fourth-year forward Steve Stefanou (22 points, 10 rebounds) and fourth-year point guard Michael Sustarsic (six points) making the only three-point shots of the quarter.

“When [three-pointers] go in, we win; when they don’t, we struggle,” Sotos said. “We got open looks. I thought all the looks that I missed were open looks.”

Still, head coach Mike McGrath does not credit the loss to missed three pointers. Instead, he believes that offensive rebounds determined the course of the game.

While the Maroons out-rebounded the Bears on the offensive end (13–9), Wash U had 14 second-chance points. More importantly, the offensive rebounds of the Bears allowed them to get into a shooting rhythm.

“[Offensive rebounds] allowed two of [Wash U’s] shooters [third-year guard Ben Hoener and second-year guard Tim Cooney] to feel a little bit better,” he said. “Hoener and Cooney got comfortable shooting the ball because they were able to get some [shots].”

For his efforts, Cooney was named UAA Men’s Basketball Co-Player of the Week.

The loss for the Maroons comes after they kept the score tight in the first half. The Maroons had one lead in the first ten minutes that lasted 34 seconds. In those ten minutes, fourth-year guard Matt Johnson did not score a single point.

But with 8:39 left in the half, Johnson hit a three-pointer to put the Maroons within two. Then, with 6:28 left in the half, he nailed a jumper to give the Maroons a five-point lead.

The senior guard did not stop there, scoring 15 first-half points en route to a 41–36 advantage for the Maroons at halftime. He would finish the night with 18 points.

The Bears’ senior forward Dylan Richter (20 pts) hit on a three just seven seconds into the second half to cut Chicago’s lead to two.

There were nine lead changes in the second half, all of them coming within the first ten minutes.

Wash U led for the remainder of the game, although Chicago was within three points (70–67) after Stefanou hit from three-point range with 4:46 left.

The Bears retaliated and expanded their lead, resulting in the Maroons’ loss.

Sotos believes that the team needs to look forward, not backward.

“Just sitting there pouting about it doesn’t do you any good,” he said.

Chicago tips off at Carnegie Mellon at 8 p.m. on Friday.