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March 3, 2014

Maroons can’t Bear tough offense

When bears smell honey, they attack consistently, without fail.

As they have for three times in the last three seasons, the No. 3 Wash U Bears (23–2, 14–0 UAA) spoiled the Maroons’ (15–10, 8–6) final game of the season. During the South Siders’ Senior Day on Saturday, the Bears defeated the home team by a score of 86–73, holding onto the lead for the majority of the game.

Chicago started the game well, holding Wash U in check and going up 7–6. Three-point shooting plagued the Maroons in the first half, though, as they shot 0–6, and Wash U shot 60 percent from the field, going on a 13-point run and never looking back. Second-year shooting guard Jordan Smith tried to keep Chicago in the game, scoring 13 points in the first half. The South Siders found themselves down 40–28 at the half.

In the second half, fourth-year guard Wayne Simon was not about to let his collegiate career end that easily. He scored 16 points in the second half, bringing Chicago to within eight points, a 64–56 score.

However, the Maroons just couldn’t muster up enough to overcome the comfortable Wash U lead on the day, as the Bears closed out the 86–73 win. Three-point shooting especially hurt Chicago on the day, as it converted 3–15 treys to Wash U’s 8–16 shooting.

Smith led the team with 19 points, Simon added 18 points and six rebounds, and second-year forward Nate Brooks scored 11 points and gathered seven rebounds.

Although this was the last competition that Chicago’s fourth-years will play in maroon and white jerseys, fourth-year forward Sam Gage has a somewhat positive outlook.

“I have mixed emotions,” Gage said. “On one hand, I’m obviously sad because it’s my last game in a Maroons uniform. But on the other hand, the end of my basketball career means the beginning of the next chapter of my life, which is exciting.”

Smith gives credit to the veterans’ importance to Chicago Maroon basketball.

“Our four seniors were the heart of our team and a lot of the reason why I came to U of C,” Smith said. “It’s going to be really weird playing without [them]. They will definitely be missed.”

Prior to the game, the four fourth-years—Gage, Simon, guard Derrick Davis, and forward Charlie Hughes—were honored in traditional Senior Day festivities.

Gage contributed tough minutes for Chicago all season, rebounding and hitting tough mid-range and three-point jumpers.

Simon, a transfer from DI American University, always provided a spark off the bench and averaged an impressive 20.7 points per game in his final three as a Maroon with athletic drives and threes.

Davis often brought the Ratner crowd to its feet this season with thunderous dunks; as a lockdown defender, the absurdly athletic shooting guard was key on the offensive and defensive ends.

It’s not easy to characterize Hughes in a few sentences, but the fan favorite did it all: he could defend anyone from a two-guard to power forward, he could lead the fast break, he could rebound, and most notably, he could knock down in-your-face jumpers from anywhere on the court. Hughes contributed most, however, with his energy and veteran leadership.

“Playing basketball at UChicago taught me countless lessons,” Gage said. “One that sticks out is the perseverance that comes along with seeing a four-and-a-half-month season through till the end. Especially at a school like this, that grind can be very tough, and from that I feel like I can take on almost any challenge.”

Chicago finished third in the UAA, behind Wash U and Emory (17–8, 9–5). The Maroons beat Emory once and lost to Emory once this season.

Smith provided very steady offense for Chicago, leading the team in points per game (11.2) and three-point shooting (41 percent) among players who shot at least eight threes. Next season, the team will belong to Smith, third-year point guard Royce Muskeyvalley (10.1 points, 3.7 assists per game), and Brooks (7.3 points, 5.4 rebounds per game). Those three players started every game this season in which they played.

Second-years Alex Voss (forward), Eric Robinson (forward), and John Steinberg (shooting guard) and first-year forward Waller Perez are also expected to make significant contributions.

“Next year is still a long way away, but we have tons of young talent,” Smith said. “And we certainly have the potential to go far next year.”

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