Fate of University Athletic Association top honors lies in the Tartans’ final game
“No comment.” That was all junior Brad Matta had to say about the men’s basketball team’s disappointing 88–74 loss against Emory in Atlanta last Friday.
The Tartans entered the night in sole possession of the UAA lead and were looking to pull ahead of the rest of the conference with a little over a week left in the regular season.
Carnegie Mellon defeated Emory 96–88 back on January 22 at Skibo Gymnasium, and the first half of Friday’s game looked as though the end result would be the same. The two teams exchanged leads several times at the beginning of the game until the Tartans went up 17–16 on a layup by Clayton Barlow-Wilcox. The Tartans held the lead for the rest of the first half, extending it to as much as 11 points. The first half was highlighted by dunks from seniors Nate Maurer and Bary Dunn, as well as the sharp shooting of senior and co-captain A.J. Straub, who hit four consecutive three-pointers, including three in a one-minute span. The Tartans went into the half leading Emory 45–36. The Tartan seniors had yet to beat Emory in Atlanta, and from the halftime score it seemed they would finally get that elusive win.
But the opening three minutes of the second half would prove costly for the Tartans. Nate Maurer, the team’s top scorer (18.3 points per game), fouled out of the game with 17:37 left in the second half after quickly picking up his third, fourth, and fifth (a technical) fouls. The Tartans were up 47–38 when Maurer fouled out, and with the Tartans’ top scorer out of the game, Emory quickly took advantage. The Eagles went on a 20–6 run and led 58–53 with 9:59 left to play. The Eagles held on and never looked back as they extended their lead and beat the Tartans by 14 points.
The loss at Emory meant that a victory yesterday against Case Western was crucial for the Tartans in order to keep their hopes of a UAA title alive. The two teams fought evenly in the first half, with neither team achieving a lead of more than five points.
After fouling out early in the second half against Emory on Friday, Maurer looked to redeem himself and came out firing, scoring 16 of his game-high 30 points in the first half to help the Tartans take a 42–37 lead going into halftime.
The Tartans never relinquished their lead during the second half, despite going 0–8 from the free-throw line in the last 19 minutes of the game. Fortunately, Maurer and Brad Matta hit clutch free throws with 35 seconds left to help seal an 80–75 victory for the Tartans.
Maurer explained how Friday’s loss was motivation for him against Case. “Personally, I let down the team and the fans. Being a senior, I shouldn’t have to watch the last 17 minutes of the game from the bench, so I knew I had to step up big today.”
With the win, the Tartans are now tied for the UAA lead with Washington University. The Tartans can clinch the title with a win at home this Saturday against Rochester. Said Maurer about the Rochester game, “Everything is on the line just like last year. Hopefully we can clinch the title for our school and everybody. I’ve wanted to make the tournament ever since I started playing college basketball, and now I have one more game to make that happen.” The Tartans and Yellowjackets tip off Saturday at 4 pm in Skibo Gymnasium.