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Last Sunday, while other students recovered from tryptophan-induced lethargy, men’s basketball lost 90–87 to St. John’s Minnesota.
Throughout the first half, the Maroons led by a small margin, holding on to the lead until six minutes remained. At this point, the Johnnies wrested control from Chicago, holding onto their lead thanks in part to an onslaught by St. John’s point guard Andy Burns.
With a 73–71 lead at the five minute mark, Burns scored the next 15 points for his team.
Chicago came close to regaining their lead when, with just 1:14 to go, they tied the score at 81.
The rest of the game would prove to be a close struggle, as the two teams alternated final shots.
“Their point guard took over at the end of the game, and made some big shots,” said first-year Sam Gage. “We executed well offensively, but were unable to get stops on defense when it mattered the most, late in the game.”
“Our inability to get big stops defensively down the stretch, especially with their point guard was the difference,” agreed head coach Mike McGrath.
Unfortunately this is not the first time a loss has occurred at the wire. The Maroons (1–4) are well aware that their record would read differently had the games gone slightly more in their favor. Of their four losses, two have been by just a point, while Sunday’s was by three.
“Both teams were scoring pretty easily and they just ended up getting the lead at the right time,” said third-year Michael Sistarsic of the loss to St. John’s.
The only loss by a significant margin occurred last Tuesday at Lake Forest College where the Foresters won 76–58.
“I thought that it was a tough game for us, mostly because Lake Forest played exceptionally well,” commented McGrath.
The game began with an aggressive attack by Lake Forest who scored the first three shots in the beginning minutes to set the score 8–0.
“They got out to a fast start, and we didn’t score for the first four-plus minutes of the game,” said Gage. “Every time we made a run to close the deficit, they answered with a run of their own, which was usually in the form of a few three-point baskets.”
Of the 25 threes Lake Forest attempted, they scored 15, or 60 percent. This is compared to their shots-taken average of 50 percent, and their significantly lower two-point average of 39 percent.
“We did a good job on their top player, but they shot very well from the perimeter. We needed to do a better job in this area defensively,” continued McGrath.
Despite the rocky start, it is clear the team knows what it needs to improve on, and is ready to do so in order to come through when it counts.
“We are a pretty potent offensive team and are executing well, especially considering that we have been without our top scorer,” said McGrath. ”We need to get better at the defensive end to compete for the UAA championship.”
They have quite a few games before conference play starts in January.
“We play two tough regional opponents this coming week in Wheaton and Wesleyan,” said Sustarsic. “We also start the new year with Augustana, and they’re good.”
The Maroons play at Wheaton this Tuesday.