Men’s basketball drops 2 straight away from home, falls to No. 11 ranking

During CWRU mens basketball teams game against Washington University in St. Louis, graduate student guard Richie Manigault added 18 points to their score.
During CWRU men’s basketball team’s game against Washington University in St. Louis, graduate student guard Richie Manigault added 18 points to their score.
Courtesy of Tim Phillis/CWRU Athletics

The UAA competition is never easy, especially when the league boasts four nationally ranked squads and one more receiving votes in the Top 25. The league has zero teams with a losing overall record. The worst team is the University of Rochester with an even 9-9 record. So it’s understandable that any team would have some difficulty when they have to play those teams back to back every single weekend for two months. CWRU was fully aware of that difficulty last weekend as they embarked on their third and fourth straight games away from home against the University of Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis, respectively.

The contest against the Maroons of UChicago was the culmination of playing three straight games with razor-thin margins, as CWRU could not engineer a way to hold on to a lead and fend off the opposition in this one. UChicago sprung out to a 15-8 lead 5 minutes into the first half and maintained that lead until a layup made it 18-17 for the Spartans with around 10 minutes to go. The back-and-forth affair would continue until a 14-2 CWRU run over the final 5 minutes of the first half put CWRU ahead 40-31 at the halftime buzzer.

The buzzer unfortunately signaled impending doom for CWRU. For the first five minutes of the second half, the Spartans went scoreless, while the Maroons got red-hot, literally. They shot 71.4% (20-28) from the field and went 75% (6-8) from the 3-point line in the second half.

After squandering their lead, the closest that CWRU came to UChicago was a point with 5:52 left to play after a 3-pointer by graduate student forward Colin Kahl. The next couple minutes went exactly how you would expect them to go when a team is shooting that well: The Maroons went on a 12-4 run that essentially put the game away. The final score was 85-75 in favor of UChicago.

It’s extremely hard to win a contest when your opponent shoots over 53.3% from the field and 44.0% from the 3-point line. Kahl was the leading scorer for CWRU, scoring 20 and adding 6 rebounds. It marked the fifth time he scored 20 or more points in a game this season. Third-year guard Sam Trunley continued his hot streak, building off an appearance on the Team of the Week by scoring 17 points off the bench with 3 assists and 2 steals.

The next contest, in typical UAA fashion, was a thriller that came down to the final possession of the game. In CWRU’s 7 UAA games so far, only one has had a final margin of more than 10 points. Somewhat ironically, the largest margin so far, 20 points, was in a win over then No. 4 ranked New York University. This well attended Sunday afternoon contest in St. Louis against WashU started just as CWRU would wish for: with them raining 3-pointers and taking a big lead early. The Spartans hit 10 of their 21 3-point attempts in the first half and led by as many as 16 points. But just as in the last game, CWRU could not hold on to their lead. WashU clawed back, and a buzzer-beating 3-pointer cut the Spartan’s lead to 42-35 heading into the break.

The Bears kept hanging around just within striking distance in the early part of the second half as CWRU could never fully put them away. Despite the Spartans taking a 12-point lead with 13:37 to go, the game was tied at 63 points with 5:46 left. The last 2:16 of regulation was ugly: CWRU didn’t score at all after taking a 75-72 lead. The Bears came right back, scoring a layup and a free throw to even the score at 75. The Spartans missed a free throw on the front end of the one-and-one and missed a potential game-winning 3-point shot at the buzzer.

The game now went into overtime, with the Bears energized and the Spartans distraught. Despite never trailing to WashU in regulation, CWRU had let the Bears make their way back into the game. The overtime period was a thrilling back-and-forth affair, as both teams sat at 82 points with one minute to go. Graduate student guard Anthony Mazzeo, who was spectacular all game, hit a layup to give the Spartans an 84-82 lead. WashU answered with a 3-pointer at the 28 second mark, but CWRU quickly punched back with a Trunley turnaround jumper to give the Spartans a 86-85 lead with 12 seconds left to play. The thrills continued as the Bears hit a jumper with five seconds left to put WashU ahead 87-86. A Mazzeo 3-pointer at the buzzer was no good, and the Bears prevailed 87-86.

The loss meant CWRU fell out of first place in the UAA and now sits at 4-3, one game behind the 5-2 NYU Violets. The star in this contest was Mazzeo, who added to his spectacular season so far with another performance of 25 points or more, his eighth such performance so far this season. He led all scorers with 27 points, shooting 12-21 from the field and 2-5 from beyond the arc while adding 3 assists. Fellow graduate student guard Richie Manigault added 18 points on a blistering 7-11 from the field and 4-5 from distance.

CWRU is finally back at home in Horsburgh Gymnasium for two contests this weekend as they will face UChicago on Friday, Feb. 2 at 7:30 p.m. and the No. 17 WashU on Sunday, Feb. 4 at noon. Both games are rematches from the previous weekend and are sure to be thrillers.

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