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January 26, 2015

Shooting troubles plague East Coast trip

After capping a fun-filled Neon Night weekend with a dramatic victory over Emory, the No. 21 Maroons (11–5, 3–2 UAA) prepared for their first road trip of UAA conference play.

“Coming off the three wins to start off the UAA, we knew we were in a really good position and coming into the weekend we knew that great position could be tarnished with losses,” said third-year guard Jordan Smith.

They opened the weekend with a game against the Brandeis Judges (7–9, 2–3 UAA), a nine-loss team with a deceiving record.  Despite their losses, the Judges had yet to lose a single game by double digits, proving that they can hang in there with some of the more successful squads.

The Judges came out of the locker room with a certain ferocity and drive, acquiring and holding the lead for a majority of the first half.  However, towards the end of the half the Judges went cold and the Maroons seized the opportunity.  The Chicago squad went on a nine-point run and headed to the locker room with a 30–23 lead over Brandeis.

Play resumed at a fairly even level.  The scales tipped here and there, but the point differential stayed almost static as the Maroons held tightly to their lead. With two minutes remaining, the South Siders laid claim to a five-point advantage over the Judges, but it was not to stay. With a minute and a half left in the game, Brandeis’s Colby Smith sent a tip-in through the netting to bring the Judges within three. Consecutive offensive fouls by second-year point guard Tyler Howard gave the Judges plenty of opportunities and they took them, making a lay-up to pull within one point of the Maroons with just 18 seconds remaining.

With the shot clock turned off the Judges were forced to foul, and they must have liked their prospects given that the Maroons possess only a single player shooting over 67% from the charity stripe. With a chance to put the Maroons up by three, second-year forward Waller Perez missed the first free throw of his one–and–one, and the Judges gained possession of the ball, trailing by a single point. With six seconds remaining, Perez fouled Smith, sending him to the line. Smith shot with ice in his veins, sinking both his free throws, and providing the Maroons with just six seconds to steal back the victory. It was not to be. Jordan Smith’s drive was blocked by Colby Smith and the Maroons left Boston empty-handed.

They had no time to dwell on the loss, however, as the Violets of NYU (12–4, 3–2 UAA) were waiting confidently after a 24-point trouncing of No. 4 Wash U. The Maroons could not dig themselves out. Sloppy defense and hot shooting from NYU’s Hakeem Harris allowed the Violets to shoot 50% from both in the paint and behind the arc. The Maroons were able to keep pace with the NYU team for the first half, going into the break with a three-point lead, but at halftime the shooting hands went cold. The Maroons went 0–9 from downtown in the second half and shot just 31% from the floor. NYU showed no signs of slowing down, dominating in the second half and sending the Maroons packing with a second defeat on the weekend with a final score of 85–68.

“I think our team learned that there are no guaranteed games when playing in the UAA,” said third-year forward Nate Brooks. “Because of the strength of the conference this year, every game is a battle and we have to approach it that way.”

Jordan Smith agreed.

“After dropping a close one on Friday it was particularly frustrating to not be able to get back on track on Sunday, especially because we had the lead at half,” Smith said. “There are no bad teams in the UAA this year and you can’t afford to take a game off because everyone is capable of beating one another. I know were a better team and we’re anxiously waiting for the next opportunity to prove it.”

The Maroons’ next game is Friday in Ratner against Case Western Reserve University.

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