Tartan men’s basketball drops two games to top UAA teams

The Carnegie Mellon men’s basketball team took on the top two teams in the University Athletic Association (UAA) over the weekend in the confines of Skibo Gymnasium, losing to the 11th-ranked Washington (Mo.) University Bears on Friday 94–73 and nearly pulling off an upset of the 14th-ranked University of Chicago Maroons on Sunday before falling 82–75. The losses move the Tartans to 12–11 overall and 5–8 in the UAA.

Against Wash. U. on Friday, an exciting first half saw the lead exchange hands eight times before the Bears scored the final eight points to lead 45–38 at the break. Junior guard Geoff Kozak got the Tartans on the board with a pair of early three-pointers, and first-year guard Jack Anderson followed suit with back-to-back treys, putting Carnegie Mellon up 16–12 at the 12:23 mark.

Wash. U. then retook the lead until senior guard Brad Matta knocked down a jumper in the lane at the 4:25 mark, putting the Tartans up 30–29. A layup by sophomore forward Terrance Bouldin-Johnson gave the Tartans the lead again at 38–37, but the Bears responded with an 8–0 run to go into halftime up by seven.

Wash. U. continued its lights-out shooting in the second half as the team methodically increased their advantage over the Tartans. Two free throws by sophomore forward Ryan Einwag cut the Bears’ lead to 47–42 with 18:19 remaining. Wash. U. then used a 16–5 run over the ensuing five minutes to lead by 16.

The Tartans cut the lead to 10 on an Einwag layup at the 9:49 mark, but Wash. U. answered with a three-point play on the other end. The Bears extended their lead thanks to strong free throw shooting as they went on to win by 21.
Anderson came off the bench to lead the Tartans with 13 points and six rebounds. Kozak contributed 12 points and five assists, and Einwag added 11 points. Bouldin-Johnson chipped in nine points and five rebounds off the bench.
“Friday we had a huge crowd for White-Out Night,” Kozak said. “Friday night home games are always fun to play in, and the fans were great. In the first half we played even, up two, down two, and then in the last minute they go on a run. Things like that take the wind out of your sails. It’s hard to come back against the 11th-ranked team in the country, we came out a little sluggish in the second half and Wash. U. pulled away.”

During the first half on Sunday, both teams started out cold from the floor, but Einwag was able to create opportunities for himself, and his dribble penetration led to a layup giving the Tartans the lead at 9–8 with 14:54 remaining.

Chicago went on a small run before a three-pointer by Kozak cut the Maroons’ lead to 22–20.

Over the ensuing two minutes, Chicago used a 10–0 run to increase its lead to double digits.

With 3:03 remaining, the Tartans found themselves down by 14 before scoring the final six points of the first half to go into the break down 39–31.

The Maroons were in a position to blow the game wide open early in the second half, but the Tartans came storming back. A 13–2 run for Carnegie Mellon capped off by a free throw from Einwag narrowed the score to 52–50 with 12:24 left. Chicago hit back-to-back three-pointers later to bring their lead back up to 12, at 69–57 at the 5:59 mark. A layup by Anderson with 2:55 remaining cut the Maroons’ lead to 74–70. After a Chicago miss, the Tartans came down on the fast break only to have sophomore guard Corey O’Rourke pick up a charging foul. Chicago made a basket at the other end and connected on its free throws the rest of the way to seal the hard-earned victory.

Kozak scored a career-high 20 points on 9–13 shooting from the floor. Einwag also had 20 points to go with his team-high eight rebounds. Matta, playing in his final home game, added 15 points.

“It was senior day and we were able to get motivated for Brad,” Kozak said. “We ended the first half down eight, and we had some mental breakdowns, but we played some of our best basketball of the season in the second half. This is a good note as we go into the Rochester game next Saturday.”

The Tartans will wrap up their regular season on Saturday when they travel to play the University of Rochester.
“It’s always difficult to play at Rochester,” said Kozak, “but we hope to play as well as we did in the second half [against Chicago] and end the year over .500, that’d be great.”