The men’s basketball team fell to the UIC Flames Wednesday night in a friendly exhibition. The night saw about what you would expect from a preseason game—plenty of effort, and even excitement, but room for improvement and polish.
“We competed pretty well,” said Head Coach Mike McGrath. “We made mistakes, but most of them were mental, not a matter of physical effort.”
Despite losing, the Maroons out-rebounded the Flames 36–32 and snagged 12 offensive rebounds. Fourth-year forward Steve Stefanou led the team with six rebounds. Fourth-year guard Michael Sustaric also chipped in five boards.
Chicago was led in scoring by Sustaric, as well, who had eight points on 3-of-4 shooting, including a perfect two for two on three-pointers. Fourth-year guards Matt Johnson and Tommy Sotos each had six points.
Tellingly, though, the Maroons shot 36.5 percent from the field, compared to 43.8 percent by UIC. Both teams had relatively poor performances behind the arc; Chicago was 5-of-20, and UIC 4-of-17.
The Flames were led in scoring by third-year guard Gary Talton’s 14. They had three other players–fourth-years Dorian Tyler, Paris Carter, and Daniel Barnes–with 10 points each.
After matching UIC for the first few minutes, the Maroons fell behind for good as the Flames went on an 18–0 run during an eight minute period in the middle of the first half, giving them a 16-point lead. That differential turned out to be too much for Chicago, which struggled to battle back against the taller and more athletic D-I players.
“There’s not too much to be read into that,” said McGrath, “We made some shots early, but one of things that happens is that size and athleticism wears on you over time. We turned the ball over, missed some free throws, missed shots, and they stretched it out.”
The Maroons were at a height disadvantage against the D-I Flames, although not by much. Chicago doesn’t have a center listed on the roster, and their tallest player is 6’8’’ Steve Stefanou.
Perhaps the biggest factor was the 23 turnovers by the University’s squad, compared to 14 by UIC’s. UIC turned those 23 turnovers into 22 points. In addition, UIC got to the free throw line 26 times, making 15. The Maroons were just 2-of-7 from the stripe.
In the second half, McGrath took the opportunity to give playing time to more players, including his first-years. All 16 players—five first-years among them—got an opportunity to take the court.
Between now and the beginning of the season, the Maroons will look to improve on the mental aspect of the game.
“We have to execute better,” stressed McGrath. “It’ll take time and repetition, but that was the biggest thing. We need to make sure we continue to concentrate on handling the ball.”
Despite the final score, the exhibition gave Maroons fans a reason to be optimistic about the upcoming season. The handful of devotees who made the trip out to the UIC Pavilion got to see that firsthand. And for the players, the exhibition gave a welcome opportunity to compete against another team instead of against each other in practice.
Chicago begins their season November 15th against Dominican at the Ratner Athletic Center.