Men’s basketball crowned UAA Champions for first time in program history


The CWRU men’s basketball team defeated WashU and UChicago in two incredibly close games to secure the first-ever UAA Championship in the program’s history.

Paola Van der Linden Costello, Staff Writer

The Case Western Reserve University men’s basketball team secured their first ever University Athletic Association Championship and extended their conference play win streak to eight games, the longest in program history. The Spartans improved to 20-3 overall and 10-3 in conference play with their latest two wins. CWRU also jumped to No. 14 in the NCAA DIII rankings from No. 21 the previous week.

The win against the Washington University Bears on Friday, Feb. 17 night in St. Louis was not an easy one. CWRU struggled making their shots in the first half and let WashU go on a 10-0 run within the first three minutes of the game. Second-year guard Sam Trunley managed to score the first points for the Spartans with a 3-pointer with 16:53 remaining in the first half.

The Bears pushed their lead to 12, their largest of the night, midway through the first half, but CWRU continued to fight and stayed in the game. Graduate student guard Mitch Prendergast kept this game alive and scored 15 points in the remainder of the half. After a made 3-point jump shot by Prendergast with 3:24 left, the Spartans took their first lead of the game 31-29.

The Bears reciprocated quickly and tied the game with a jump shot but Prendergast followed up with a layup. After a defensive rebound by fourth-year forward Cole Frilling and another layup by Prendergast, CWRU took their largest lead of the half at 35-31. The lead didn’t last long as the Bears went on a 5-0 run to retake the lead 36-35. CWRU averaged 33.3% on 3-point accuracy in the whole game, but the Spartans were only shooting 25% in the first half.

The start of the second half was similar to the start of the game. The Bears had a 7-0 run, taking an 8-point lead with 17:28 left in the game. Head Coach Todd McGuinness quickly called a 30 second timeout to talk to the team. The conversation seemed to spark some energy as second-year forward Umar Rashid hit a 3-pointer to score the Spartans’ first points of this half, chipping away at the deficit. 

The Bears didn’t back down on either side of the ball, putting CWRU in a 55-46 hole with 11:54 remaining in the game. 20 seconds later, Rashid hit another 3-pointer after a strong defensive stop to put the team back in good spirits. With 7:10 left in the game, graduate student guard Danny Frauenheim made a 3-pointer that pulled CWRU within 1 point of tying the game.

Third-year forward Ian Elam made a layup with 4:13 left to give CWRU their first lead of the second half. WashU responded with a 6-0 run with 1:28 left in the game. Prendergast, once again, came to the rescue with a 3-pointer and a layup to tie it with 49 seconds left. The Bears put in a layup but Prendergast hit another 3-pointer, giving CWRU a 75-74 lead with 22 seconds left. The Bears missed a free throw with two seconds left and third-year guard Luke Thorburn inhaled the rebound to seal the Spartan win 75-74. The victory also gave CWRU sole possession of the No. 1 spot in the UAA conference.

The Spartans shot 33.3% from beyond the arc and 42.9% overall. Prendergast led all players with 29 points. Rashid added 12 points and led the team with 8 rebounds, anchoring CWRU’s defense throughout their conference play. Frilling led the team with 3 assists and had 7 rebounds and 11 points.

Prendergast said, “Coming into the game, we knew that if we won we would be in a really good position to win the conference. We started off really slow but we’re finally able to start hitting shots. Coach drew up a really good play at the end of the game and Danny made a great pass. Their defensive pressure bothered us but once we were able to figure it out we knew we would be good.” 

CWRU next started the game on Sunday, Feb. 19 against the University of Chicago strong, opening with a layup from Thorburn. Though the Maroons quickly tied it, a jumper from Frilling, one 3-pointer from Trunley and two from Rashid gave the Spartans a 6-point lead with 13:56 left in the first half. The Maroons cut the lead to 1, but Rashid hit another 3-pointer to stymie any comeback. Despite good offensive strategy by the Maroons, CWRU just kept making their shots from a distance, hitting 42.1% overall as a team with Rashid making 4-6.

The Spartans took their largest lead of the night with 4:08 left in the first half after Rashid made a 3-pointer, leaving the Maroons trailing by 11. However, the Maroons struck back with a 7-1 run to end the first half 37-33 in favor of CWRU.

UChicago came out of halftime with ferocity and stole a 2-point lead after hitting two 3-pointers. Elam hit a shot to tie it 39-39, but UChicago stormed back for a 56-52 after hitting a 3-pointer of their own. 

 Rashid responded with yet another 3-pointer that put the Spartans 1 point away from a tie. Later, Rashid hit his final 3-pointer of the night to tie the score with 3:33 left in the game. After this, CWRU maintained the lead for the remainder of the game. A crucial steal by Rashid with 2:07 left and a successful jumper by Frauenheim gave the Spartans a 7-point lead. After a team deadball rebound with 23 seconds left and a successful free throw by Rashid, the Spartans claimed the 76-67 victory and the UAA championship. 

Rashid led all players with 26 points, shooting 7-10 from the 3-point line and 8-14 overall. Rashid, Frilling and Trunley had 7 rebounds each while Prendergast and Frauenheim recorded 4 assists each. 

Rashid’s outstanding performance in the game earned him a spot on the D3Hoops Team of the Week. The team shot 37.9% from the field goal range and 37.5% from beyond the arc. 

“Being able to make school history is always special, and having a hand in the contribution feels great as well,” reflected Rashid. “Hopefully we’ll be able to keep our hot streak rolling these next couple of weeks.”

CWRU will play their regular season finale game against Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 3:00 p.m. Make sure to keep up with their game next week and future announcements about this team as they head into the NCAA DIII tournament. As they have shown us time and time again, the Spartans can continue to break school records and deliver amazing results.