Outside looking in

Spartans drop two crucial games at home, likely miss chance at NCAA tournament


Andrew Hodowanec/Observer

Matt Clark, the Spartan’s hero in regulation against Rochester, dribbles the ball up the court against Emory. Clark and his teammates wore WRU Red Cat uniforms against Emory for Throwback Weekend.

After a recorded setting start to the season, the Spartans have sputtered down the stretch. As each team came out ready to play their best basketball, the Spartans, who a few weeks ago saw themselves targets atop the highly competitive University Athletic Association (UAA), have fallen from their position as kings of the hill.

The highly anticipated annual throwback weekend was not beneficial to the Spartans, who dropped both games on the weekend, first against nationally-ranked Emory University and then in an overtime thriller against Rochester University.

When the Western Reserve Red Cats took to the floor on Friday night and Adelbert Gymnasium shook, there was a sense of history flowing through the building. The same happened with when the Case Institute of Technology Rough Riders were in the building. Although these teams really haven’t competed since the federation in 1969, the homage to the school’s history made the weekend all the more special. However the Case Western Reserve University team, which wore the throwback jerseys, was unable to beat their modern day rivals.

The Spartans dropped the weekend opener against no. 18 Emory 71-65. Senior Dane McLoughlin matched the leading Emory scorer with 20 points on an impressive five of eight from beyond the arc. Senior Connor Edel and freshman Eric Black place followed behind with eight and seven points each. Both Edel and Black also pulled down seven rebounds each.

The Spartans fell behind early, as the Eagles built a 16-8 lead in the opening minutes. Before, the Spartans picked up speed to rattle off and uncontested seven straight. Emory jumped to substantial leads followed by Spartan rallies twice more in the half before the Spartans finally tied the game at 30 a piece with 2:50 left before the buzzer. Heading into the locker room, the Spartans found themselves down 36-32.

The Spartans remained close throughout the second half. A dunk by Black to pull within a bucket with 12:54 left in the game got the CWRU crowd going. The Spartans rode that momentum to keep the game close and jumped out in front on a McLoughlin triple at the 6:59 mark to grab their first lead, 56-54.

The Spartans ran out of steam, however, as the Eagles expertly played the clock and rattled off a string of free throws to seal away the game.

The Spartans returned to the floor on Sunday to take on Rochester and keep their playoff hopes alive. Matt Clark scored a career-high 24 points, but his brilliant performance was not enough to save the Spartan’s UAA standing. Clark hit 14 of those points in the final 1:11 of regulation, as he nearly singlehandedly forced overtime and a chance for a Spartan victory. Furthermore Clark hit a career best 13 of 14 from the free-throw line.

Black and Edel followed up their Friday night performances with a few Sportscenter worthy plays and a 19-point 10 rebound double-double from Black with nine points and nine board for Edle, narrowly missing his own double-double.

The Spartans got off to an unusually slow start in the game, hitting just two of their first 17 shots overall. The slow start saw the Spartans down by 15 with just over 2:30 in the first half and down 31-18 when the buzzer mercifully sent the teams into the locker rooms.

The Yellow Jackets continued the onslaught to start the second, as they jumped to a 19-point lead. Finally the Spartans opened up a scoring barrage, as they hit their first from beyond the arc to jumpstart a 14-0 run. With under seven minutes to play, the Spartans hit two free throws to finally reclaim a lead at 43-41.

Rochester rattled off eight in a row after a series of traded leads and seemed rooted in position to win the game in regulation. This is when Clark turned on the gas and rattled off a string of shots to keep the Spartans alive. With .04 seconds left on the clock, Clark was fouled in the act of shooting, forcing the game into overtime as he hit the clutch free throws.

Granted a stay of execution, the Spartans were unable to capitalize and took the loss as time expired on the additional period.

The Spartans look to finish the season with a victory over arch-rival Carnegie Mellon University on Saturday. Tip off is at 5 p.m. as CWRU hosts the Tartans in Horsburgh Gymnasium.