Men’s basketball rallies, beats Brandeis after losing lead

Junior center Chris Shkil beats a Brandeis defender on Saturday to make a lay up for his team and get the win. (credit: Brandon Hong/Photo Editor) Junior center Chris Shkil beats a Brandeis defender on Saturday to make a lay up for his team and get the win. (credit: Brandon Hong/Photo Editor)

Coming off of a tough loss to New York University (NYU) to open the weekend, the Carnegie Mellon men’s basketball team sought to serve up some vengeance on Sunday against the Brandeis University side a week after losing to the very same team. And they did, shaking off a slow start and eating up a big Brandeis lead to break out their 2nd conference win of the season.

A team that has been in the mix throughout the season, the Carnegie Mellon men have been looking for a spark in University Athletic Association (UAA) play. With a 78–70 win over Brandeis, the men may have the spark they need.

Coming out in the first half, the Tartan men showed a lot of energy, playing up on their toes, and jumping for every sloppy Brandeis ball. The team lept forward 8–4 with quick play up and down the court. But as the half dragged on, the team watched an early lead fall away as they sank into a hole against the Brandeis men. In a very early setback, junior forward Jack Serbin drew a technical foul from a hard drive towards the basket only a couple of minutes into the game. With the technical foul, Serbin, the Tartan’s leading rebounder this season, sat out the rest of the half, leaving the Tartans to battle against Brandeis down a man. It didn’t take long to turn things around in the 2nd set though.

Even coming out of the half with a full lineup, play was slow and measured from the Carnegie Mellon side. The team looked out of step and unemotional compared to their opposition. As the Tartans fell behind early in the 2nd half, they tried to re–energize their side by substituting in younger players who hadn’t seen much game time through the majority of the season. The tactic didn’t give a lot of results through, and the team kept sliding going into the half. The team looked frustrated. Every time something looked like it was coming together, a foul call or a quick Brandeis response just made the hole bigger. That all changed when sophomore guard Ryan Maha got involved.

Down 31–40, Maha showed determination, racing down the court along the benches to make a jumper and start the team’s game–changing run. With a couple more baskets tightening the game up, Maha broke loose to finish up what he started. Seconds after a smooth mid–range jumper from the left side, Maha intercepted a Brandeis pass for a clean steal up the middle, which he finished with a layup at the rim for the first Carnegie Mellon lead since the start of the game.

Building momentum off a few hard fought points by Maha early in the 2nd half, the men found a way to win from behind. As Maha put it, the team “just had to chip away, tryin’ to get a basket in at a time, play solid, and keep playing [their] game”. With the team down by nine points, Maha set off a 14 point unanswered scoring run by the Tartans. They chunked together score after score, turning a deficit into a lead.
The men didn’t stop there, looking patient and committed to finishing the job. They continued to battle the Brandeis side, keeping a tight defense, and holding off Brandeis’s efforts to find clean shots.

Two technical fouls against Brandeis in the 2nd half certainly didn’t help the visitors, but with consistent ball control for the Tartans powered by Serbin’s seemingly uncontested rebounds, there was no opportunity for Brandeis to get back into the game.
Brandeis had one last window of opportunity to tie the game, down 63–66, but Maha stole the ball right on the left sideline, charged for the basket, pulled up just inside the arc, and netted a long jumper to give the Tartans a permanent five point lead.

The entire second half was dominated by the Carnegie Mellon side, as the team out scored Brandeis 54–31 off of prolific scoring by Maha, Serbin, and junior center Chris Shkil. The trio combined for 53 points, with Serbin and Shkil contributing 11 and 9 rebounds respectively to keep the ball in Carnegie Mellon’s hands.

After the game, Maha gushed about Shkil’s contributions, with Shkil’s streams of layups and key jumpers sucking the air out of any potential Brandeis comeback late in the game. “Chris Shkil played absolutely amazing. He played really well … Chris had a career night. He played extremely, extremely well.” Shkil led the Tartans in scoring with 24 points while shooting 58.8 percent.

In spite of a talented roster, the Tartan men struggled early on in UAA play, going 1–7 in their first conference games. But if the team continues their weekend success, they have a chance to turn things around in through the rest of conference play.

“I know we lost to [Brandeis] last Sunday by double digits, and we came back Sunday and we beat them ... So I think that that just proves that we can play with anybody”, Maha says of his team. Maha’s recognition of the teams capability is showcased in their play. Taking the largest hole of the game and turning into their largest lead, the Tartans demonstrated their ability to compete at a high level.

Friday night, the Tartans suffered a tight loss to NYU 70–67, losing their own half time lead to the visitor’s run. The team came out shooting, putting 43 points in the first half while shooting 52.9 percent, but NYU came back to defeat them. With the Brandeis win, Carnegie Mellon ended the weekend 1–1.
The team’s next game will be this Friday at Chicago, and the Tartan’s next home game will be the following Friday, February 19th against Emory University.