Spartans pull shocking upset

Men’s basketball defeats top ten team


Eric Richardson

First-year forward Michael Hollis shoots over a Brandeis defender earlier this season.

Jacob Rayyan, Staff Reporter

The Case Western Reserve University men’s basketball team went 1-1 on their final road trip of the season, losing to Emory University but pulling off a stunning upset over No. 6 University of Rochester. The Spartans moved to 8-16 overall in the season and 3-10 in the University Athletic Association as they play their final game Saturday, Feb. 25 against Carnegie Mellon University.

In the Spartans’ second game of the weekend, the team pulled off perhaps the biggest win of their season in their last road game, a victory over No. 6 Rochester. Third-year guard Colin Zucker led all scorers with a career-high 27 points in the contest. First-year forward Connor Nally also had a big night with 19 points and eight rebounds in the contest.

In the first half the Spartans found themselves in a back-and-forth affair. The team found their groove from long range, hitting nine three-point shots—four from Zucker and five from Nally. The game was tied at 37 at the half.

In the second half, the Spartans started off hot and took a six point lead, only to see the Yellowjackets respond with an 8-0 run to retake the lead. With the Spartans trailing 72-70 and just over three minutes remaining, Nally and Zucker were able to step up. A three pointer by fourth-year student Javier Alvarez and a shot by Nally put the team up 75-72 with around two minutes to play. The Spartans would not lose the lead for the remainder of the game as Zucker made a freethrow to seal the season-defining win, 76-72.

In the first game against Emory, the Spartans fought hard in the first half, building up a nine point advantage going into the break, before Emory eventually tied the game in the second half to push it into overtime. CWRU was outscored 14-7 in the extra period, and the final score of the contest was 99-92 in favor of Emory.

In the first half, the Spartans were spurred by a play by Alvarez and first-year forward Sam Hansen. Hansen in particular had a hot shooting half, shooting 3-of-4 from three point range. Third-year forward T.J. Duckett led the Spartans in rebounds with seven in the half. The Spartans played solid defensively, holding Emory to only 36 percent shooting overall and forcing 10 total turnovers.

Through the beginning of the half, neither team was able to gain a huge advantage. However, in the closing minutes of the half, three-pointers from Hansen and Alvarez put the Spartans up 42-32 en route to a 47-36 lead at the break.

In the second half, the Spartans were unable to get any consistent scoring drives going as Emory fought their way back into the contest. Alvarez scored eight points in the half to keep it close, but the Spartans only shot 4-of-16 from beyond the arc. The Spartans were also continually fouling Emory, as the team shot 22 free throws in the second half alone, making 20 of them.

As the teams battled back and forth throughout the half, neither was able to gain total control of the game. The Spartans were able to open 78-69 lead with just over seven minutes remaining thanks to Hansen knocking down a three-point attempt and a foul shot on the next possession. The lead would not hold, however, as the Spartans found the game tied again with only 46 seconds left to play.

Alvarez had the opportunity to hit two free throws to put the Spartans up one with only 31 seconds left, but only hit one to keep the game tied at 85 a piece. Neither team was able to score the rest of the way out.

In overtime, the Spartans built up a four point lead before Emory managed to go up 90-89 with under two minutes left. From that moment on, the Spartans were unable to consistently make any more baskets as Emory made their free throws to win the game.

When asked about how his team’s approach has changed since it ended a nine-game losing streak, Head Coach Todd McGuinness said, “We have been playing harder, with some younger guys stepping into the spotlight. Our guys believe we can win and keep battling.”

The Spartans host Carnegie Mellon Saturday at 5 p.m. for the team’s season finale. CWRU will honor Alvarez, their lone fourth-year player, before the game as the Spartans celebrate Senior Day.