The Maroons began the basketball season ranked 17th in the nation in the D3hoops.com poll. Yet on Saturday night, the Maroons gave the editors reason for second thoughts as they fell to the North Park Vikings 66–72.
Chicago got off to a good start. While they did not shoot incredibly well, the team’s defense was stout enough to keep the Viking attack in check. The squad catapulted out to a four-point lead. However, the South Siders’ momentum was halted by a technical foul on fourth-year Eric Robinson, allowing the Vikings to tie the game. The door was then open for North Park to control the game from that point forward.
For the remainder of the half, the North Park dominated, finishing the half up by a nine-point margin. After halftime, they continued to extend the lead. Behind the scoring of second-year Jordan Robinson and third-year Juwan Henry, who ended the game with 27 and 29 points respectively, the Vikings sprung to a 16-point lead. The Maroons were unable to contain the duo throughout the game.
Despite never really being able to get hot, the Maroons began to mount a comeback. With 12 minutes remaining in the second half, fourth-year Alex Voss hit a three-pointer to cut the Viking lead to 12 points. Over the next 11 minutes, the Maroons scratched their way back into the game to find themselves down by just two points. After forcing turnovers, the Maroons were able to draw up a final play to tie the game. However, fourth-year standout Jordan Smith was unable to convert, and the Maroons were handed their first loss of the season.
Third-year point guard Tyler Howard commented on the loss, saying, “We got into foul trouble early in the first half and gave them easy points on free throws that put us in a big hole. We battled hard in second half but couldn’t get enough stops down the stretch.”
There were, however, a lot of positives to take away from the clash against North Park. The Maroons are early in the season, and clearly have not yet gotten into a clear rhythm. It is unreasonable to expect the squad to continue to shoot a mediocre 28% from three-point range, when they shot a whole seven points higher last season and return all but one player from last year’s squad. With better three-point shooting and an improvement in performance from the charity stripe should convert into wins down the road.
The South Siders will be looking to improve their performance in each of these aspects tonight against Lake Forest, who seeks revenge for a loss at their Parent’s Day last year. The Foresters are 0–1 this year, after falling to UW–Platteville in double overtime on Saturday.
“This week, we are looking to improve our team defense and be aggressive without fouling,” said Howard. “We will also continue to work on executing the offense and sets we’ve been working on in practice the last few weeks.”
Part of that execution that Howard mentions will come when the squad starts hitting shots more consistently. If the Maroons can shoot better than they did in the season opener, then the Foresters could be in for some trouble. Lake Forest operates on second chance opportunities, so the Maroons’ typical dominance on the boards could also create problems for the team. In its home opener, Chicago will take on the Foresters tonight at 7:00 p.m. at Ratner Athletics Center.