Basketball had successful winter break with 10–4 overall record
It was a very happy holiday indeed for the Carnegie Mellon men’s basketball team, which entered the second semester with a 10–2 record. After the 50–64 loss to University Athletic Association (UAA) opponent University of Rochester, the men’s basketball team got busy with a seven-game winning streak against non-conference opponents. Despite a reputation as an offensively minded team, the Tartans got it done with tough defense over the break, never giving up more than 65 points to an opponent.
The most notable victory came against 12th-ranked Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. The team squeezed out a six-point victory in a hostile environment, resulting in a 71–65 win. The other schools that fell victim to the Carnegie Mellon steamroller were Christopher Newport (83–63), La Roche (76–63), Juniata (65–57), Averett (70–62), and Lycoming (81–59).
It wasn’t all smiles, however, as the Tartans lost sophomore rising star Jack Anderson to a high ankle sprain. The Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania native has missed five games since getting injured in the game against La Roche.
“It’s tough losing Jack, but to come out of the break the way we did was huge,” said junior forward Ryan Einwag. “Now that we have the non-conference games out of the way, we can focus on what’s ahead and the UAA championship.” Einwag currently leads the team in scoring and averaged just under 17 points per game during the win streak.
The loss against the second-ranked Judges of Brandeis University set Carnegie Mellon back. The Tartans suffered another abysmal shooting performance, scoring 27 percent from the floor in the first half and 35 percent for the game. The team scored a season-low 48 points.
“We just couldn’t get anything going,” said Corey O’Rourke, a Junior who has been starting in place of the injured Anderson. “It seemed like we were taking good shots, but nothing was falling.”
The Tartans made a run after trailing by 15 at the half, closing the gap to five after some hot shooting by Einwag and senior Geoff Kozak. However, in a close game with approximately 10 minutes left, four of the Tartan starters were curiously on the bench. The Judges capitalized and extended their lead to 10 within a minute’s time. The lead did not drop below double digits for the rest of the game.
It looked like the team had a solid strategy forming during the run, with strong double teams on Brandeis’ leading scorer, Terrell Hollins, by junior Terrance Bouldin-Johnson and senior Greg Gonzalez. With Hollins neutralized and Einwag providing solid defense on the Judges’ captain and second-leading scorer Joe Coppens, the Tartans were able to create turnovers and convert them into easy buckets. Their absence from the court at the 10-minute mark proved costly, as Hollins got back into a rhythm on the next two possessions, converting one of two free throws and scoring on a lay-up from an assist by Coppens.
Carnegie Mellon never recovered, watching with mouths agape as the Judges converted shot after shot and the Tartans made only one out of eight field goals before the coaching staff admitted defeat, pulling their starters with three minutes to play in a 16-point game.
The minor speed bump against Brandeis turned into a brick wall against NYU, as the Tartans couldn’t handle the zone defense that Violets coach Joe Nesci threw their way. The Tartans blew a 13-point first-half lead after NYU went to a 2–3 zone. Head coach Tony Wingen’s offense sputtered, to put it mildly, and the Violets capitalized and went on a run of their own, cutting the lead to four before the half.
“We weren’t able to spread their defense,” said O’Rourke. “They threw that zone at us, and we had a tough time getting back into a rhythm. Turnovers really killed us in the first half when they made that little run.”
The second half was no better for the home team, as the Skibo natives could do nothing to stop the visitors from New York City. After a couple seesaws with the lead in the last few minutes, the Violets pulled ahead and sealed their victory with a clutch-free throw shooting down the stretch.
The Tartans (10–4, 0–3) exited winter break with a head full of steam, but after two huge backslides, they’ve seen virtually all of their momentum evaporate. Winless in the UAA, Carnegie Mellon has its collective back against the wall as the team heads to Cleveland this Friday to face another conference opponent, Case Western Reserve. The team’s players are more than aware of the task in front of them.
“We started digging our own grave,” said junior forward Jon Wolleben. “But we’re not quite ready to jump in it yet.”