It's a shame the basketball season is almost over. A couple more weeks of play and the men's basketball team might have had a shot at the UAA title. Chicago continued to display all the characteristics of a champion team as they defeated Brandeis in Boston with a solid offensive performance. They also left New York City with a slim victory over NYU, in a game where Chicago shot rather poorly, yet fortunately sank the jumper that meant the game with a mere second left on the clock. The two victories increased the Maroons' winning streak to five games. They have also won 10 of their last 15 matches.
The Maroon road trip started off on Friday night at the Coles Center against the NYU Violets. Chicago had already defeated NYU at home on January 20, 71-49. This time the game was definitely much tighter as the Maroons finished off their rival with a last second jumper as they held on to a 59-57 triumph.
Chicago took the lead on the first play of the game with a jumper by third-year forward Derek Reich 10 seconds into the game. However, it would be four minutes until the next basket of the game, a three-point jumper by fourth-year forward John Poyer. The Maroons held on to the lead for most of the first half, but squandered it at the end and went in to the locker rooms down 24-22. Chicago shot an atrocious 28 percent from the field in the first half while NYU countered with a relatively decent 43 percent. Maroons coach Mike McGrath must have said something during the break because Chicago unquestionably shot better in the second half. Nevertheless, it was NYU who led for most of the second half. The Maroons trailed by as much as eight with nearly 12 minutes remaining in the game. It was at this point that Poyer decided to take over, contributing with eight points in a 16-2 run that would put the Maroons ahead 52-46 with 3:36 remaining. Nonetheless, the Violets would still not give up, going on a 6-0 run to tie it right back. There would be two more ties before the scoreboard would show a 57-57 tie with just 14 seconds to go. Despite all of the options McGrath had, it was very clear that it would be Reich who would take the final shot, and he delivered majestically. Despite scoring only 18 points rather than his usual 25, Reich sank the winning jumper with 1.1 seconds remaining to win it for the Maroons, and the crowd of almost 900 in New York got a taste of why he's been selected to the d3hoops.com Team of the Week.
The Maroons shot 50 percent from the field in the second half and 63 percent from behind the three-point line. Poyer, second-year forward Scott Fisher and fourth-year guard Justin Slaughter played excellent games, scoring 15, 10 and 9 points respectively in helping Reich lead Chicago to what at that point would be their fourth straight victory.
Chicago would then travel to Boston to face Brandeis for the second time this season. In their first encounter, the Maroons came out victorious with a 73-60 score at home on January 18. Chicago would once again show supremacy over Brandeis on this occasion, once again led by a great performance by Reich. However, it would be all three fourth-years, Poyer, Slaughter, and Tyler Smithson, who would take most of the merit this time, as they combined to score 45 points in helping the Maroons defeat the Judges 86-77. The Maroons would go on to shoot 50 percent from the field and 51 percent from behind the three-point arc.
The first half of the game was well fought, with the lead changing sides a total of nine times and Brandeis out-shooting Chicago percentage-wise. However, it was the Maroons who led at the end of the first half 47-44. The second half would display an impressive effort by the Chicago defense, limiting Brandeis to 34 percent shooting from the field and 33 percent from behind the three-point arc. Furthermore, the Maroons would go on a 13-4 run to start the second half, with the aid of three-pointers by Poyer, Slaughter, and first-year guard Brian Cuttica. The Judges would make a late run, cutting the deficit to 6 points with 5:30 left in the game. Fortunately, consecutive jumpers by Smithson and Poyer would put an end to Brandeis's final hopes and give Chicago yet another victory.
Rather unfortunate, however, was the fact that Washington University also beat the same two teams last weekend, and in that fashion claimed its sixth ever UAA title, with an impressive 13-0 conference record (23-1 overall). Washington comes into town on Saturday for the last game of the season against Chicago, in the rematch of a game that took place in early January, when the Bears edged the Maroons 65-62 at home. Washington arrives with an impressive winning streak of 19 games. As stated earlier, our boys come into Saturday's match with a five game winning streak of their own, as they battle to break Washington's flawless record and culminate their season with an exclamation point. Yours truly wholeheartedly encourages the student body to come out and support our Maroons in the final game of their season, as they face the new UAA champions in a significant clash where team pride rather than final conference standings are at stake.