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Men’s basketball wins Sudeck Tournament

Courtesy of Tim Phillis/CWRU Athletics
During the Bill Sudeck Tournament hosted by CWRU from Nov. 10-11, graduate student forward Colin Kahl was recognized as the tournament’s most valuable player.

Case Western Reserve University men’s basketball Head Coach Todd McGuinness has been saying one thing persistently at the conclusion of every fall practice: “There are so many good players on this team.” After losing several key players to graduation following an NCAA tournament appearance last year, the transfer portal allowed the Spartans to reload the roster with talent from across the country, most notably five graduate transfers. For those guys, this year is their last hurrah, as most were top options on their previous teams and have spent most of fall learning how to play together as a team. The sacrifice of accepting smaller roles comes with a hope, however, that this Division III superteam of sorts can achieve more success than any of them had achieved at their previous universities. The graduate transfer rule came into effect based on a severely limited season for DIII in 2020-2021, a year where all five transfers had canceled or significantly shortened seasons as second-years. Friday, Nov. 10 was a moment that the entire roster had been looking forward to since the summer.

The Bill Sudeck Tournament is held in honor of legendary Spartan basketball coach Bill Sudeck, who led the Case Institute of Technology, and later CWRU, for a combined 37 years, amassing over 300 wins as head coach. The tournament kicked off on Friday with a matchup between Eastern University and Waynesburg University, where Eastern easily prevailed by a score of 82-62.

The Spartans were up next, taking on the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. The anticipation brewed as the 13th-ranked Spartans geared up for their first game of the season. The Spartans won the tip and then ran a play on the first possession of the game, which stalled. With the shot clock ticking down, graduate student forward Colin Kahl launched a 3-point shot from near half-court. The shot connected flawlessly and the Spartans never looked back. Kahl, a four-year player from Sewanee: The University of the South, scored 19 points in the first half as the Spartans dominated, shooting 59.46% (22-37) from the floor and 50.0% (12-24) from 3-point range in the first half to take a 62-29 lead by the break. The Spartans never led by less than 27 points from that point on, and at one point they held a 37-point lead, and the score was 88-51 with around 10 minutes left in the game.

After that point, McGuinness brought in the reserves, demonstrating how deep his roster is this season. 18 of the 19 players on the roster logged minutes for CWRU on Friday night. Four first-years made their college debut and two scored for the first time in their college careers: guard Drey Fox, who made 2 3-pointers, and guard Charlie Fox, who converted a jumper in the paint. Forward Ethan Nowak and guard Jake Sambuchino also made their college debuts.

CWRU finished the game shooting 48.6% (35-72) overall and 44.4% (16-36) from 3-point range. The Spartans held an 18-3 edge in second-chance points, while the Spartans’ bench outscored the Pitt-Bradford Panthers’ 55-26. Kahl posted a perfect game from the field, going 8-8 overall and 3-3 from beyond the arc en route to a 23-point effort while adding 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks. The 8-made field goals were the most in a game without missing a shot in CWRU history. CWRU won the game 104-73, logging the second most points in a season opener in team history.

Up next in the tournament on Saturday afternoon was the consolation game between Pitt-Bradford and Waynesburg, which was an overtime thriller with Waynesburg prevailing by just a point at the end of the extra period. CWRU was then set for a matchup with Eastern University, one that promised to be much more difficult than the one on Friday night. With just a couple hours of pre-game to prepare for this matchup, it was going to be a challenge. But thankfully as a result of the blowout the night before, the main rotation was well rested and ready to earn a statement win.

The Spartans stumbled out of the gate, going down 13-4 just 6 minutes into game action. Third-year guard Sam Trunley and Washington and Lee University graduate student transfer guard Richie Manigault responded with a pair of 3-pointers that catalyzed a 10-2 run that brought CWRU ahead by one point. The two teams traded leads until a 7-0 run late in the first half that put the Spartans squarely ahead 37-30 at half.

Just as they had against Pitt-Bradford, the Spartans started the second half off shakily. However, this game had much higher stakes than the previous one due to a much smaller advantage for CWRU. Despite some halftime words of encouragement from McGuinness, the Spartans fell victim to Eastern’s press and did not make a field goal in the first six minutes of the second half. Eastern led the game until fourth-year forward Ian Elam knocked down a 3-pointer in transition, his first 3-point attempt of his college career. Even the visibly frustrated McGuinness couldn’t help but crack a smile as one of the unheralded heroes of his team last year had his moment.

Elam and his teammates later joked, “1/1, 100% from three.” But after that it was back to business. Eastern retook the lead on a pair of free throws and the two teams once again traded leads until fourth-year forward Hunter Drenth scored 5 straight to give CWRU a lead that they would never relinquish. Drenth had a triumphant performance off the bench in this contest, scoring 17 on 6-7 shooting in just his second game back after missing all of the 2022-2023 season with an injury. Third-year forward Umar Rashid provided the final spark to push CWRU to victory, with a layup, a free throw and a made 3-pointer pushing the lead to 11 with 1:21 remaining. From there, good free throw shooting for the Spartans sealed the deal late, culminating in two made free throws by Rashid, who finished the game with a 16 point, 14 rebound double-double while also adding 4 blocks. Eastern made one final jumper to make the score 82-72. The Eastern University Eagles let the Spartans take the final 7 seconds off the clock before the final buzzer sounded.

CWRU had won the Bill Sudeck Tournament crown for the second year in a row. With the win, McGuinness reached 200 career wins as a head coach. 86 of those have come with the Spartans as he has helped lead the team to back-to-back NCAA Tournament berths and its first ever UAA Championship last season, for which the team raised a banner prior to the season opener on Friday night. Unfortunately for the players, McGuinness denied a Gatorade cooler being dumped on his head, preferring to save it for a more important occasion, perhaps later this season. After averaging 16.5 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks in tournament play, Kahl was named the Bill Sudeck Tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Drenth also earned selection to the All-Tournament Team.

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