One hundred points. The Maroons had not scored that many points in a game since January 19, 2007 and, in Friday’s game at Carnegie, it looked like that drought was going to continue.
That is, until fourth-year forward Tom Williams stepped up to the foul line for two shots.
With 34 seconds left in the UAA contest, and the Maroons (9–5, 2–1 UAA) overwhelming the Tartans (6–8, 1–2) 98–53, he sunk the first to put the Maroons within one point of 100. Then it was time for the second.[img id="91547" align="left"/]
“All I heard was that people were going to be [angry] if Tom Williams missed one of those free throws and left us at 99,” Maroons’ head coach Mike McGrath said with a laugh.
Fortunately for Williams, the ball landed in the bottom of the net, and the Maroons secured a triple-digit point total, winning the critical conference clash by a score of 100–55.
Chicago did not leave its efforts behind in Pittsburgh, however, as they routed Case 85–66 in Sunday’s match at Cleveland. With a two-game winning streak, Chicago looks to edge out NYU (12–1, 2–1) on Friday and Brandeis (8–6, 2–1) on Sunday.
Although UAA games are typically fights to the finish, Friday’s game at Carnegie was anything but that.
The Tartans got off to a 4–2 lead, but that was the last lead they would see. By shooting 48.7 percent from the field in the first half, the Maroons gained a 53–22 advantage at halftime.
By that time, McGrath was almost ready to call a victory but knew there was still a possibility for a surprise.
“It didn’t take long to realize that [the Tartans] weren’t having their best day,” McGrath said. “I felt like, at halftime, because of the way that Carnegie plays, if we didn’t keep an eye on the ball a little bit…it could zip back into a competitive game. I wasn’t sure that that was going to happen, but it definitely could’ve moved that way.”
Fortunately McGrath’s fears did not become a reality. The Tartans shot just 37.5 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes, while the Maroons shot 51.7 percent. On top of that, Chicago was 6–14 from behind the arc compared to Carnegie’s 1–8.
Three Maroons had double-digit scoring performances—Hughes (18), fourth-year guard Matt Johnson (18) and fourth-year forward Steve Stefanou (15).
McGrath said that while putting up 100 points is crowd-pleasing, in the larger scheme of things, there is nothing to read between the lines about the performance.
“It’s like a rainstorm in the middle of the desert. There’s no explanation for it,” Johnson said with a laugh. “It’s such an anomaly in terms of the way the game was that it’s hard to put a finger on what anything means or the significance of everything.”
McGrath told the Maroon last week that his team needed a quick change in mentality for Sunday’s game at Case, given that Case has a height advantage on Chicago, while Carnegie is a smaller, more mobile team. But with Friday’s rout in Pittsburgh, the shift in focus was not as difficult as anticipated.
“Because the game on Friday was just so odd...we didn’t have to make as big of an adjustment as I thought we might,” McGrath said.
Just like their game at Carnegie, the Maroons got off to a strong start. Their efforts early on amounted to a 15–5 lead with almost seven minutes being played.
But it was not just one person that allowed for the increasing lead. In the first half, the Maroons scored 26 points off the bench and 10 second-chance points.
It looked like things were going to get worse for the Spartans when Chicago second-year guard Derrick Davis scored a 3-pointer from three-quarters the length of the court to end the half. Case got a break though, as the referees ruled the shot left Davis’s hands after the buzzer. Still, at the half’s end, Chicago led 42–28.
While Chicago sustained its lead in the second half, Case closed within 10 points with a 3-pointer by forward Dane McLaughlin. The trey tightened the game at 61–51.
After the basket, the Spartans called a timeout.
“I think at that point, I said, ‘Hey, we just won by 45 [points] on Friday, we’ve had a 20-point lead most of this game; they just cut it to 10. We just have to focus in,’” McGrath said.
McGrath’s words appeared to rejuvenate his players, and after first-year forward Ian Joyce had an uncontested dunk with 21 seconds left, the Maroons won handily by a score of 85–66.
Now the Maroons are focused on winning their first UAA home games of the season. But winning will be tough given NYU’s #23 national ranking and their recent upset of fourth-ranked Emory.
Still, the Maroons are very familiar with the Violets. In last season’s home finale, Johnson scored a career-high 39 points to give the Maroons an 82–80 win.
At the same time, the Maroons got their glimpse of Violets’ now fourth-year center Andy Stein.
Currently, Stein is averaging 17.3 points per game along with 7.3 rebounds.
But the Maroons will have the crowd on their side, given that it is the seventh annual Beach Night.
“Beach Night is definitely a lot of fun [because] people get really excited about it, and it’s fun to play in front of the crowd with that kind of energy,” second-year forward Sam Gage said.
On Sunday, the Maroons will go up against Brandeis, a team that most recently lost to Emory (95–58) last Sunday but beat Rochester (78–64) last Friday.
Tip-off for Beach Night is scheduled for 8 p.m. tonight. The Brandeis game on Sunday starts at noon.