While the rest of the student body enjoyed their breaks relaxing at home or on vacation, the Spartans returned to the hardwood ready to compete at the highest level.
The Spartans’ hard work has paid off as they now stand at 10-2 on the season, the best start in program history. Furthermore, the Spartans kicked off their University Athletic Association (UAA) play with a big win over archrival Carnegie Mellon University last Saturday Jan. 10 and now stand as the second-best team in the conference.
The Spartans have been able to ride their offensive play to big wins, especially over the Tartans just before school started for the semester. The Spartans have beat both of their past two opponents by 10 points or more and have yet to lose at home. Their only losses this season came on the road at the hands of Dennison and Bucknell Universities. The Spartans have also won all three tournaments they have participated in during non-conference play, including the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Memorial Tournament and Bill Sudeck Holiday Tournament, which CWRU hosted.
Since then, the Spartans have faced off against Muskingum University and of course archrival Carnegie Mellon. The game at home against Muskingum showed the Spartans’ excellent sharing of the wealth. Against the visiting Fighting Muskies, the Spartans followed the lead of senior Dane McLoughlin, who boosted the squad with four three-pointers to move into a tie for second place for most-made threes with 192 over his CWRU career. Even more impressive was that McLoughlin came to the game after traveling all day before coming back to campus from a medical school interview. To add to the performance, 10 different Spartans made buckets, with junior guard Matt Clark adding ten of his own and freshman Eric Black putting up 11 points on a perfect five of five from the field. The Spartans rode this great play to a 76-75 victory.
Against Carnegie Mellon, the Spartans’ shots kept falling, one after another. The Spartans outshot the Tartans 44 to 27 percent from the floor and rode that offensive advantage to a huge 80-46 victory. In addition to the superior field goal percentage, the Spartans kept the Tartans off the boards, grabbing 55 shots of the glass to Carnegie Mellon’s 33 rebounds.
Black followed his impressive shooting display with his first career double-double. Black played 23 minutes of the bench and posted 15 points while pulling down 10 rebounds, a game high. Black was helped in the route by point guard Jimmy Holman, who put up 13 points of his own and senior guard Julien Person, who added another 11 points and pulled down four boards. However, it was Black and his teammate’s play off the bench that sealed the game for the Spartans as the bench combined for 52 points.
As the Spartans head full force into conference play, the stat that has looked most promising is not their 80.2 points per game or their 46.9 from the field but rather their assist and turnover numbers. The Spartans have been unselfish with the ball thus far, putting up a strong 16.1 assists per game and impressively holding a turnover advantage of 18 against the Tartans, an issue that plagued the team at times last season. The squad looks poised to continue their non-conference success against the strong UAA conference.
The Spartans return home after the short trip to Pittsburgh and will host first the New York University Violets on Friday night, followed by Brandies on Sunday. Both matchups are the second game of a Case Western Reserve University doubleheader, as the women’s squad will take the court beforehand to also play NYU and Brandies.