Fans propel men’s basketball to undefeated weekend and No. 10 ranking

Determined to remedy their previous losses against WashU and UChicago, the CWRU mens basketball team went all out and defeated both universities in a gratifying weekend.
Determined to remedy their previous losses against WashU and UChicago, the CWRU men’s basketball team went all out and defeated both universities in a gratifying weekend.
Courtesy of CWRU Athletics

After two straight losses away from home, it was great to be in the friendly confines of Horsburgh Gymnasium once again. After losses to the University of Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis, the Case Western Reserve University men’s basketball team faced both squads again over the weekend.

The first match was on Friday, Feb. 2 against UChicago, who were receiving votes in last week’s Top 25. The Spartans had a couple of things on their mind going into the contest, most importantly the sour taste that a 75-85 loss just one week prior in Chicago left in their mouths. The bigger picture was key too, as every game played down the stretch against UAA foes matters so much more because the UAA does not have a conference tournament. Entering Friday night, UChicago stood tied for the second spot in the rankings with CWRU. The game was critical to pulling ahead of the Maroons and securing the UAA crown. Head Coach Todd McGuinness emphasized starting and finishing strong against UChicago, who had caught the Spartans sleeping at the wheel in the second half of the last game and erased CWRU’s 9-point halftime lead to upset the Spartans.

Despite having McGuinness’ message in mind, CWRU stumbled out of the gate and was down 14-15 around 7 minutes into the game. After a timeout and some encouraging words from coach McGuinness, CWRU went into overdrive. Reminded of the loss last week, the Spartans went on a blistering 20-4 run that culminated in a 3-pointer from graduate student guard Anthony Mazzeo at the 6:56 mark that sent the packed student section in Horsburgh into a frenzy of cheers. The student section was key all night, fooling UChicago into multiple ill-advised shots as they erroneously counted down the shot clock to zero several seconds before it would have actually expired.

Chicago whittled down CWRU’s lead slightly before halftime, leaving the Spartans with a 47-32 lead at the half after Mazzeo made three free throws after being fouled at the buzzer. Coach McGuinness brought the Spartans back to earth in the locker room, reminding them of the way that the Maroons had overcome a sizable deficit last game and shot 75% from beyond the arc in the final period.

This time, however, it would be the 3-point shooting of the Spartans that would prevail. Graduate student guard Richie Manigault put the final nail in the coffin at the 10:51 mark after making back-to-back three pointers, eliciting a roar from the students. UChicago called a timeout after that bucket and never got closer than 11 points for the remainder of the contest.

As the final buzzer sounded, the score was 81-70 for the Spartans. Coach McGuinness picked up his 100th win with CWRU, becoming just the third coach in program history to reach that mark, and the fastest by far. Mazzeo was the engine behind the victory, matching his season high with 30 points on 10-23 from the field while adding 4 assists and 3 rebounds. Graduate student forward Colin Kahl had a great night as well with 16 points and 8 rebounds. Recorded attendance was 1006, easily the most to watch a CWRU home game all season.

The Sunday matinee at noon versus No. 17 ranked WashU was much less eventful than the 86-87 overtime heartbreaker in St. Louis a week prior. It was a good old-fashioned beatdown out of the gate as CWRU sprung out to a 14-0 lead early and held WashU without a field goal over the first 5:46 of the game. Kahl fueled the early run, scoring 9 points in the first 4:17. CWRU led by as many as 16 in the first half, going ahead 23-7 with 9:07 left in the half.

WashU threatened late in the half, pulling within 2 points in the final 90 seconds. Kahl came in clutch again, converting a layup at the buzzer to put the Spartans ahead 34-30 at the break. Third-year forward Umar Rashid was key in the first half, scoring 11 of his eventual 13. Despite the late momentum for the Bears, CWRU knew they were the better team and came out of the locker room with a changed attitude.

Determined to not blow yet another lead and have the game ever in question, the Spartans got hot from distance and pushed the lead back to 10 with 15:25 left to play. A 3-pointer from third-year guard Sam Trunley at the 10:22 mark put the Spartans back in the driver’s seat as they took a 56-41 lead. Trunley had a bounce-back performance on Sunday, recovering from an off-night against UChicago to score 16 against WashU. Trunley has been a key weapon off the bench for coach Todd McGuinness’ squad, and there’s no better catch-and-shoot marksman in the UAA when Trunley gets in his groove.

The Bears pulled within 8 points late in the contest but lacked the time to mount a comeback as CWRU made 7-of-8 free throws down the stretch to seal the deal for the Spartans. CWRU had won a statement 74-59 victory over No. 17 WashU. The Spartans’ defense and effort on the boards were key to the victory, forcing 17 turnovers and leading the Bears in second-chance points 18-2. Kahl was tremendous in the matchup, matching his career-high with 29 points. Kahl went 10-15 from the field and 7-9 from the free throw line while adding 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the season.

For his excellent performances over the weekend, Kahl was named UAA Athlete of the Week for men’s basketball, his second such honor this year and the seventh time that a Spartan has claimed the title this season. Kahl led all CWRU players with 22.5 points and 9 rebounds over the two games, while shooting 65.2% (15-23) overall, 50.0% (4-8) from behind the three-point line and 84.6% (11-13) from the free throw line.

CWRU now stands at No. 10 overall in the Top 25 and rose to second place in the UAA at 6-3, just one game behind 7-2 NYU. The Spartans’ overall record stands at 17-3. CWRU will now embark on their final two road contests of the season, including a critical game at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 9 at NYU that might very well decide who wins the UAA championship. The Spartans will then travel to face Brandeis University at noon on Feb. 11.

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