Thanksgiving break was filled with good basketball and victory for the No. 17 Chicago squad as it traveled to Washington for the weekend to take part in the Pacific Lutheran Thanksgiving Tournament. The Maroons kicked off the holiday weekend by beating Pacific Lutheran on Friday 62–58, and Puget Sound the next day 75–46.
On Friday, the Maroons came out to a strong start in the first half against Pacific Lutheran, ending the period up by five points (31–26). Chicago gained a larger lead in the beginning of the second half on the back of a barrage of three-pointers by second-year Jake Fenlon. Despite Chicago’s increasing lead at the beginning of the half, the Lutes stormed back to cut Chicago’s advantage to just one point (57–56) with two minutes remaining.
In the final minutes, free throws were the deciding factor of the game: Fourth-year Jordan Smith and third-year Waller Perez converted two each, and third-year Tyler Howard chipped in one more for Chicago.
Perez led the squad with 15 points and six rebounds while second-year Collin Barthel put up seven points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Fenlon made four three-pointers off the bench to give the team a much-needed boost. While the Maroons just barely edged out the Lutes in field goal percentage, they dominated in both rebounds (46–31) and assists (11–8).
The following day, the South Siders won their third straight game with a convincing victory over Puget Sound. With the team shooting a solid 49.1 percent from the field, four Chicago players scored in double digits on the day.
After going into halftime up 34–23, Chicago really put the pedal to the metal in the second half, coming out of the locker room to hit three straight three-pointers. After that, the squad was unstoppable.
The Maroons held the Loggers to a 27.3 percent field goal percentage while Chicago almost hit 50 percent. The South Siders continued their dominance on the glass (47–34), which added to their effective defense. They also held their opponent’s assists to three, while they had an impressive 22 assists. Howard, third-year Blaine Crawford, fourth-year Nate Brooks, and Perez all had points in the double digits. Howard also led the team in assists at six, while also tying Brooks in rebounds with eight.
The Maroons will face Wheaton College at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
The remainder of non-conference play for the Maroons will take place through winter break with two home games, one including No. 24 Illinois Wesleyan (IWU). Chicago will be looking to improve its all-time record against the Titans, which now stands at an underwhelming 7–16.
The matchup between these two nationally ranked teams will be an exciting one, as the Titans are currently 3–2 and the Maroons stand at 4–2. IWU is currently scoring 98.2 points per game with a field goal percentage of 53.6. The squad has five players that average in the double digits for scoring. It will no doubt be a tough game, but the Maroons are feeling confident and determined, especially after their play this weekend.
Brooks believes defense is the way they can continue to win. “This weekend we really came together as a team and played great defense, which helped us pull off two victories,” he said. “If we can stay tuned in on defense over the last half of non-conference play we’ll be really hard to beat.”
The Maroons will face Kalamazoo and IWU at home before traveling to Wheaton, Illinois Institute of Technology, and Albion over the next month before conference play kicks off in January.