February 10, 2014

After weekend, team in three-way tie for UAA second place

Chicago kicked off the second half of conference play with a split over the weekend. On Friday, the Maroons (12–8, 5–4 UAA) dropped a 82–74 contest to Emory (13–7, 5–4 UAA) before besting Rochester (8–12, 2–7 UAA) on Sunday by a score of 69–62.

“The game plan against Emory was to try and slow their offense down and to try and keep them from scoring in transition,” said second-year forward Nate Brooks. “We did a pretty good job of making them play in the half court, but we didn’t get as many stops as we wanted to.”

Despite failing to stop the Eagles on the defensive end, Chicago put on a great offensive show. The Maroons’ remarkable three-point shooting dominated the first half of the game as the team poured in eight treys, led by second-year guard Jordan Smith hitting all three of his attempts.

Emory also had a great offensive night, as the Eagles were able to convert on most of their offensive rebounds, as well as sinking a couple of threes of their own. After a back-and-forth first half, the Eagles went into the break with a 40–38 lead.

The second half played out similarly, with both teams trading points. After going down by five, the Maroons went on a 10–2 run to gain the lead. But with the shooting and rebounding efforts of fourth-year forward Sam Gage, the visiting team was able to regain control in the final four minutes to finish out the game.

“Against Emory we were unable to maintain 40 minutes of focus,” said second-year guard John Steinberg. “We were up nine with seven minutes left and we had some unforced turnovers and defensive lapses. Maintaining concentration is where we lost the game.”

On Sunday, though, Chicago was able to put together a complete offensive and defensive game to beat Rochester after losing to the Yellowjackets less than a week prior.

“The key to beating Rochester this week was being solid on offense and knocking down shots. Their defense is more conservative than what we normally see, and last week we ended up taking shots we weren’t comfortable with,” Brooks said.

Their comfort on the offensive end was noticeable again in the team’s ability to convert nine of their attempts from the three-point line, as 12 of their first 18 points were scored from long range. The ease with which the offense was able to score seemed to translate over to the defensive end, where the Maroons were able to pressure the Yellowjackets into 11 turnovers, holding them to just 10 second-chance points.

Rochester did not go away easily, as every time it fell behind, it fought back. But the opponents couldn’t quite close the gap as, after bringing Chicago’s lead down to one, the Yellowjackets gave up 11 consecutive points to the Maroons. Thus, the South Siders were able to clinch a very exciting game, a win that was highlighted by five dunks.

“Going into this last game we knew that we had an athletic advantage over them and we wanted to get the ball inside as much as possible,” Steinberg said.

This advantage aided Chicago’s team field goal percentage, which sat at 53 percent for the game. Rochester was able to battle Chicago in the paint, though, as they pulled down 36 rebounds compared to the home team’s 30.

Looking into this week’s away games, the Maroons are going to have to keep up the intensity on offense if they hope to go 2–0 in their last round of away games.

“This week we were better executing on offense, and that made all the difference,” Steinberg said. “We know we’re going into two tough places to play this weekend, so coming into those games with a lot of offensive energy is going to be huge. NYU is tied with us for second place in the conference, and Brandeis is always difficult to beat at home.”

Tip off against NYU is set for 8 p.m. in New York.