Men’s basketball hits the road tonight looking to complete a back-to-back weekend sweep of UAA rivals Case and Carnegie Mellon.
The Maroons (7–11, 4–3 UAA) open in Cleveland at 8 p.m. against a Case (7–11, 3–4) side looking for revenge after last Friday’s 71–66 overtime defeat at the Ratner Center. On Sunday in Pittsburgh, they tip off at noon against Carnegie Mellon, who took a lead into halftime last week before the Maroons came back to seal an 86–76 victory.
After scoring 25 points in both victories last weekend, third-year point guard Matt Johnson raised his scoring average to 16 points and earned his second UAA Athlete of the Week award this season. Averaging 2.3 three-pointers a game, his long-range shooting will be crucial this weekend, but Johnson seemed to think the games would be won and lost closer to the basket.
“Both of these teams are big and crash the boards extremely hard,” Johnson said. “We know how important it is to rebound defensively and then take care of the ball offensively. In both games, there were stretches where we turned the ball over and gave the other team some life. If we can limit that and keep them off the glass, we should be in good shape.”
The Maroons will be in great shape should third-year forward Steve Stefanou repeat his performance from last week against Case. After slowly returning to form after an eight-week layoff, last year’s leading scorer broke double digits for the first time since his injury, posting 14 points in 20 minutes of action. Against Carnegie, however, he didn’t score, after playing for only five minutes.
“When you’re knocked out for eight weeks, especially as a big guy, it’s not easy to regain your feel for the game,” coach Mike McGrath said. “We’re working him back in game by game, just seeing what’s working for him and the team.”
This weekend marks the beginning of the second half of conference play. Having hosted five (and won four) of the first seven games, the Maroons must now return the favor. Over the next few weeks, they will travel to compete against the UAA’s top three teams: Rochester, Emory, and Wash U.
“You would always rather play at home, but given how our season was going I think it was good to get our feet under us with some early home games,” McGrath said.
“We really thrive off playing on our home court in front of our friends and family,” Johnson agreed. “It was great to get some of the league’s better teams on our home floor the first time around. That being said, I think there’s a certain level of familiarity with teams the second time around, and I think we know what we need to do to be successful. It’ll be a challenge to get some important wins on the road, but I think our success at home has given us the confidence to get it done.”