Maybe it was the uniform changes, but it was likely the dedication that catapulted the Spartans into second place in the UAA with two wins this past weekend.
Big wins over the Brandeis and New York University move Case Western Reserve University to 12-6 overall and 4-3 in the UAA, that record puts them in a three-way tie with Emory and the University of Chicago, and three games behind the undefeated in conference Washington University. The strong play has been foundational for the team and they are prepared and confident for the end of the season. “We can make slight adjustments,” said head coach Sean McDonnell, “But, our overall game place won’t change that much.”
The bright red was a big change from the typical blue and white as the Spartans commemorated the Western Reserve University Red Cats on Friday night as part of Throwback weekend. David Thompson and Tim Chung put up 18 and 17 respectfully to lead the Red Cats to their second straight victory. Thompson added 15 rebounds to his stat sheet giving him his 10th double-double of the season. All five starting Spartans had double-digit points and the spread of the scoring options kept Brandeis guessing, leading to a strong victory.
“Our seniors played great against Brandeis. They really led the way,” said McDonnell.
The Spartans started to slow down 11-8 after the opening exchanges, but a 12-1 run over the next three minutes helped them jump to a 20-12 lead. The teams would battle for the lead as Brandeis pulled back into contention with a seven-point run and would grab back their slim lead, going up 31-29 heading into the locker rooms for the half. The vicious battle continued into the second half until the Spartans exploded for their second biggest run of the game putting up ten unanswered points to grab a 48-41 lead. Brandeis fought back to within four twice, but Chung’s sharpshooting of four baskets from behind the arc, foiled any attempt of a Judges comeback. Chung’s last bucket put the Spartans up by 12 with 1:26 left on the clock and the Spartans rode the lead into the locker room with the 74-66 win.
Another change of uniform, this time as the Case Institute of Technology Rough Riders, made no difference in the Spartans play from two nights before as the Spartans battled to a hard fought 80-73 win over New York University. The Spartan offense has come alive since their three game skid, with all five starters scoring in double-digits for the second straight game. Julien Person, the spark for the Spartans against the University of Chicago two weeks ago added 18 points, with eight vital points in a row in the final minutes. Thompson added his 11th double-double of the season helping the Spartans return to their winning ways. Dane McLoughlin was the team leader however has he rattled off a season high 28 points and was named UAA player of the week for his stellar play. McLoughlin hit five of seven from three point range and was 11-14 from the field. ”Dane is an exceptional player and will deserving of the award,” said McDonnell.
Neither team could get up by double digits in the first 20 minutes with strong runs on both sides of the court. However a 3:34 scoreless slip by the Spartans led to 16-5 Violet run, and put CWRU down 41-32 at the half. The Spartans hit the ground running building a 12-4 run in the opening minutes of the second half to climb back to within one. The next nine minutes of play saw multiple lead changes until CWRU pulled out a 9-0 run in the final minutes as Person hit his crucial eight points in a row.
The Spartans will have a strong case of déjà vu as they play Brandeis and New York University again this weekend as they go on the road this weekend for the two games away.