Men’s basketball trumps #1 Washington University

Basketball is a game of runs. Fortunately for Carnegie Mellon, every run went the team’s way during a crucial University Athletic Association (UAA) weekend in Skibo Gymnasium. The Tartans got right back into the league title mix by knocking off the University of Chicago Maroons Friday night and upsetting the Washington University (Mo.) Bears on Sunday. Washington was ranked number one in the country entering Sunday’s game.

Carnegie Mellon got superior play out of its team leaders all weekend, including double-figure scoring for senior Greg Gonzalez and junior Corey O’Rourke in both games. Gonzalez scored 16 points on Friday night, while pulling down nine rebounds, and he followed up with a 20-point performance against the Bears. O’Rourke was the catalyst in the 30-point upset of Washington on Sunday, dropping 14 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and, perhaps most importantly, providing some much-needed pressure on the inexperienced play of Bear sophomore point guard Ross Kelley.

“He was definitely getting nervous out there,” O’Rourke said. “I was just trying to create some turnovers so that we could get out and push the tempo. We knew that if it turned into a half-court game, Ruths could wear us down inside.”

Troy Ruths, the Bears’ go-to offensive weapon, still managed to score 16 points, but it was for a futile cause. The Tartans created 22 turnovers and capitalized on every opportunity they were given. Add that to a defensive effort that held the Bears to 36 percent shooting, including a horrendous 8 percent from the three-point line, and you have Carnegie Mellon’s biggest win of the year. And, as junior guard Elliott Curtis commented, the victory extended beyond its wide margin of victory.

“The league’s so strong this year that we knew it wasn’t over for us when we dropped four of our first five games [in the UAA],” said Curtis, who had a spectacular alley-oop pass to Greg Gonzalez to help demoralize the opposition. “Now if we handle our end and catch a few breaks with Rochester and Wash. U. dropping a couple games, we could find ourselves playing for the championship when Rochester comes to Skibo.”

It’s another year of parity in the UAA, with a number of somewhat equally matched teams getting knocked off as the race heats up. On the same Sunday that saw Carnegie Mellon knock off the number-one team in the country, Chicago traveled to Rochester and won by nine, making the title race even closer. Now the UAA stands at a three-way tie, with Chicago, Rochester, and Washington up top with league records of 5–2. At 3–4, the Tartans could make another move toward the top when they travel to St. Louis and Chicago next weekend, hoping to stay perfect against the teams from the Midwest.

“We’re two games back,” Gonzalez said. “And there’s still a lot of basketball left to be played. If you’d have told me we’d be sitting in this position two weeks ago, I’d have said you were crazy. We’re real excited. We just have to focus on handling our own business and hope other things fall into place for us.”

As difficult as it was to imagine two weeks ago, the Tartans look like they’re back in full force and making a run at the top.

The Tartans travel to take on Wash. U. on Friday, Feb. 8.