Men’s basketball falls to two UAA competitors
It was a disappointing weekend for the Carnegie Mellon men’s basketball team, dropping both games in Chicago and St. Louis and essentially falling out of University Athletic Association (UAA) contention. The Tartans now stand at 3–6 in the league, reversing all of the momentum they built up with two huge league wins last weekend. The road has ailed Carnegie Mellon all year in the UAA, where the team has managed only one away win in Cleveland against the Case Western squad.
After the Tartans defeated them by 31 points last Sunday, the Bears of Washington University (Mo.), now ranked ninth in the nation, got their revenge Friday night. Despite a career-high 19 points from sophomore Jack Anderson, who shot well from the three-point line, the Tartans were unable to finish the game off. Carnegie Mellon held a two-point lead after two free throws from senior Geoff Kozak with about nine minutes left, but the Bears unleashed a three-point barrage to pull ahead for good. Free throws and turnovers in the last couple of minutes finalized Washington’s 11-point victory.
Though the final box score reveals that both teams shot virtually the same field-goal percentage, had very few turnovers between them, and hit high percentages from the free-throw line, Kozak pointed to another significant category.
“Three-point shooting,” he said. “Compared with last week, when we held them to 1–12 shooting, they went off this week. We just didn’t get the stops down the stretch that we needed to.”
While Kozak may be right, the even statistical match-up still reveals a weakness that has plagued Carnegie Mellon for the last several years. In tight games in which execution and efficiency matter, such as the losses to Rochester on Dec. 1 and to NYU on Jan. 20., the Tartans have difficulty on both sides of the ball.
The Tartans are trying to get past the weekend and start focusing on the future. Junior forward Jon Wolleben was quick to point out that the season isn’t over yet.
“We’ve still got five more games to go,” said Wolleben, who has been providing an important spark off the bench for Carnegie Mellon. “We have to finish out strong.”
The Tartans can still salvage their season, especially if they manage to pull together some tough victories over the final five games. At 13–7, if the Tartans can manage a win streak to end the season, they could be looking at an NCAA tournament berth. With last Friday’s win over the nation’s top team Washington University and December win over 12th-ranked Capital, the Tartans have some impressive victories on their résumé.
“We beefed up our strength of schedule this year for a reason,” said junior center Rob Pearson. “We played some tough non-conference opponents and earned a few important wins. Plus, this year, the UAA is so strong that any win looks good.”
The Tartans are on the road again next weekend, when they face off against New York University and Brandeis, on Friday and Sunday.