January 9, 2014

Offensive stars to lead charge into first conference battle

[img id="111565" align="left"/]Royce Muskeyvalley and Charlie Hughes have taken over this season for the Maroons.

Chicago (7–4) defeated Washington and Lee (4–7) last Saturday by a score of 86–74, on the backs of third-year point guard Muskeyvalley’s 22 points and five assists and fourth-year forward Hughes’s 17 points.

Even though the Maroons missed their first nine field goals, the home team only found itself down 6–5 in the early minutes. When the second unit subbed in, Chicago outscored the visiting Generals 11–3, taking a 16–9 lead. However, Washington and Lee fought back, finishing the first half with a 42–41 lead.

Even though the Generals only had a one-point lead, they outshot the South Siders 57.1 percent to 41.7 percent in the first half.

“In the first half our shots weren’t falling, but we were getting good looks, and we knew it was just a matter of time before they started falling,” second-year shooting guard Jordan Smith said. “Defensively, in the first half they made a lot of crazy shots, and we gave them a few too many open looks.”

At the half, Muskeyvalley had 14 points and Hughes had nine, together accounting for over half of the team’s points.

Both teams battled back and forth in the second half, exchanging runs. Once the Maroons gained a 73–70 lead, though, they didn’t look back. In the final six minutes, Chicago hit seven of eight free throws and held Washington and Lee to just four points, sealing the 86–74 victory.

“We executed really well at both ends of the floor in the second half and gradually pulled away. I think getting stops down the stretch was big for us,” Hughes said.

Defensively, the South Siders have struggled a bit at times this year. They allowed the Generals to shoot 54.9 percent from the field (to Chicago’s 47.6 percent) and 58.3 percent from the three (to Chicago’s 36.7 percent). The Maroons’ opponents have scored 70 points in eight of 11 games this season, and Chicago has allowed 80 in four of them.

“Our team needs to do a better job helping each other on defense,” Hughes said. “We tend to get lazy off the ball, but we’ve been working on it lately and are improving.”

However, the South Siders have only allowed 68.3 points per game in the last four.

Offensively, this well-rounded Chicago team continues to have success, with Muskeyvalley and Hughes emerging as stars. Hughes has paced the Maroons the entire season, leading the team with 13 points per game. Muskeyvalley has shined at particular moments, scoring 20 points in multiple games this season along with a game-winning buzzer beater, and averages 10.5 points and almost four assists per game. Smith also averages 10.1 points per game. Impressively, all three of these players shoot over 43 percent from three-point land, with Muskeyvalley converting a ridiculous 53 percent of his treys.

The Maroons now prepare to take on the No. 7 Wash U Bears (9–2), who will be as challenging as ever. Wash U won 84–80 against Wheaton, a team that defeated Chicago 84–61 in early December.

“I think there was a bit of rust after break, but we’ve been practicing very well lately and have overcome it,” Hughes said. “We’ll be ready to go against Wash U this weekend.”

The Maroons tip off against the Bears in St. Louis at 3 p.m. on Saturday, in Chicago’s first UAA matchup of the season.