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January 21, 2011

Men's basketball travels to face ranked UAA foes

Though their record (5–9, 2–1 UAA) would not suggest it, in big games—those against ranked teams or UAA opponents—the men’s basketball team has proved itself a worthy opponent, winning three of six games. This weekend, the Maroons travel east hoping to continue their success against two teams that both fit big-game criteria. They play 21st-ranked Brandeis tonight at 8 p.m. and 25th-ranked NYU on Sunday at noon.

Though both opponents are ranked and ended non-conference play undefeated, they find themselves 6th (Brandeis) and 7th (NYU) out of eight UAA teams after three rounds of conference play. In a further quirk, the Maroons have the worst overall record of any UAA team, but sit 2nd in the conference rankings with a 2–1 record.

“I think it speaks to the depth of our league,” third-year point-guard Matt Johnson said. “There are no easy wins, but every game is there for the taking. The discrepancy could be attributed to a lot of things, including strength of schedules. Three of our non-conference games were against top 25 teams, two of which were in the top 10. Ultimately, those games are the ones that prepare us for the grind of the UAA.”

The Maroons are in for a difficult game against Brandeis, a tough defensive team that has held opponents to under 60 points and 40-percent shooting a game. It is also the team’s first UAA road game after playing to huge crowds against Wash U and at Beach Night against Rochester.

“Playing at home is a definite advantage and it was a good way for this team to start UAA play,” coach Mike McGrath said. “We have played well on the road at times this year and need to do so this weekend to stay in the heat of the UAA race.”

McGrath remains confident in his team despite its losing record so far.

“I think that some of that is the result of us getting better throughout the year and adjusting to not having Steve Stefanou in the lineup,” he said.

Stefanou led the Maroons in scoring last year, but had been injured and out of action this season until returning just in time for UAA play. However, he won’t be the only dangerous scorer on the court this weekend. Though NYU has yet to win a conference match, the Violets arguably have the UAA’s most talented team. Their sixth man, fourth-year Richie Polan, averages a double-double off the bench, and second-year Carl Yaffe ranks among the UAA’s top 20 in scoring, rebounding, assists, and blocked shots.

“Yaffe is a forward, but he has a really well-rounded game,” Johnson said. “He scores and rebounds very well, and gets a lot of assists in NYU’s Princeton-style offense. His versatility can be difficult to defend against but I think our forwards match up particularly well with him.”

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