Men’s basketball secures NCAA tournament berth with 95-91 win over CMU


Courtesy of CWRU Athletics

Because they won their conference, the CWRU men’s basketball team secured a spot at the NCAA DIII Championship where they will face Arcadia University in the first round.

Paola Van der Linden Costello, Staff Writer

 Case Western Reserve University’s men’s basketball team defeated Carnegie Mellon University 95-91 to finish the regular season 21-3 overall and 11-3 against University Athletic Association teams. With this win, the team ensured sole possession of its first-ever UAA Championship. CWRU also improved to No. 8 in the NCAA DIII rankings. 

The Spartans had an uncharacteristic start against the Tartans. CWRU turned it over on their first possession, leading to a 6-0 CMU run less than two minutes into the first half. Fortunately, the Spartans course-corrected after second-year forward Umar Rashid made two 3-pointers. Second-year guard Diego Echavarria made a layup on the next possession to give CWRU the lead once again. 

The lead grew to 22-13 with 11:05 remaining after a jumper from Rashid. When CWRU fans thought a double digit lead was imminent, the Tartans went on a 13-0 run to put the Spartans down 29-25 with 5:41 remaining. Fourth-year forward Cole Frilling and graduate student guard Mitch Prendergast both responded with 3-point jump shots to put the Spartans up by three points with less than two minutes in the first half. However, CMU had a ferocious 8-2 run and took a 45-42 lead over the Spartans to close the first half. 

Third-year guard Luke Thorburn started the second half with a layup that shrunk the deficit to one, but three 3-pointers from CMU left the Spartans trailing by nine with 16:04 left. This marked the Tartans’ highest lead of the night. 

A layup by Frilling with 9:40 left to go gave the Spartans a one point lead. This shot energized CWRU as they took the 73-69 lead following multiple 3-pointers from across the board. The team found their offensive groove and after another successful 3-pointer by second-year guard Sam Trunley and a jumper by Frauenheim, the Spartans had their highest lead of the night of 10 points and 5:46 remaining in the game. Despite the double digit lead, CMU continued to fight their way through the game, managing to get as close as 3 points before the end of the game. However, CWRU’s defense held strong, and the Spartans finished the game 95-91 to improve to a nine-game winning streak in conference play—the longest in program history.

Despite the close score, the Spartans shot 16-33 (48.5%) from the 3-point line and 31-56 (55.4%) overall, significantly better than the Tartans who shot 11-28 (39.3%) and 34-70 (48.6%) respectively. CWRU also had more rebounds and assists. Frilling led the team with a season high of 30 points, shooting 75% from 3-point range and 69% overall. Trunley and Rashid each added 19 points while Frauenheim recorded his fourth double-double of the season and third in conference play, with 17 points and 11 assists. With the UAA championship secured, the Spartans clinched a berth in the NCAA tournament. 

As the season starts to come to an end, it is incredible to look back and look at everything that this team has accomplished. The Spartans have continuously demonstrated their ability to bring great plays and break school records. They finished their non-conference play undefeated, and maintained their energy all throughout their conference season. The team shot 37.5% from the 3-point line and 30.3% from the field goal range. Frilling tied the record for the highest rebounds per game, achieving around 8 rebounds consistently. Prendergast placed third and Frilling fifth for points per game, averaging 17.2 and 16 respectively. Elam led the conference with the highest field goal percentage, averaging 66.7% from the field. Rashid led the conference with the most blocks, notching 44 total blocks this season and 28 within conference play. It is clear that this team is full of talented individuals, but all will tell you that the ability to work as a team is what has gotten them this far into the game. 

We also saw Frilling and Prendergast surpass 1,000 career points. Frilling completed his 1,000 points in 63 games—the second fastest in program history. Rashid also broke the program record in the team’s first game against Washington University in St. Louis with 9 blocks. The team achieved their second highest 3-point accuracy in the game against Brandeis University and scored over 100 points in two of their games. The last time that was achieved was in 1997 and it’s only been accomplished five times in all of program history. We have loved watching this team play, and, like Frauenheim tells us, we have loved watching the team win. Elam, Thorburn, Trunley and Rashid were also named to the 2022-23 CSC Academic All-District Team for the academic and academic achievement. It is clear that this team is full of surprises and exciting achievements, and we hope to continue seeing them succeed in the NCAA championship tournament.

The team will be hosting their first game of the tournament in the Horsburgh Gymnasium on Friday, March 3 at 6:20 p.m. where they will be facing Arcadia University.