CHICAGO – No lead proved safe on Wednesday night inside the Ratner Athletics Center. The University of Chicago men's basketball team saw its 30-point lead dissolve away in the second half, but the home side came up with critical points and rebounds down the stretch to earn the 94-92 victory over Wheaton College.
The Maroons (5-1 record) won their fifth-straight game and snapped the Thunder's three-game winning streak (3-2).
A three-point barrage staked UChicago to a sizable lead in the first half. The guard combo of junior Jake Fenlon and freshman Jordan Baum were lights out from deep off the bench. The two combined to sink 11 of 12 three-point attempts for 33 points over a 15-minute stretch. Fenlon was red hot with seven-straight treys without a miss to start out, while Baum was a perfect 4-for-4. The seven three-pointers in the game tied Fenlon's career high.
The Maroon offense exploited its significant size and height advantages to great effect. For the game, they manhandled the Thunder in the post and owned a 45-24 rebounding advantage, including a 19-7 edge on the offensive glass. Senior forward Blaine Crawford did the most damage in the first half with 13 points as he established position right under the basket time and again. Junior forward Collin Barthel also came up large with 11 points and eight rebounds for the game.
Five-straight treys put the home team ahead 25-15. The lead continued to steadily grow from there. In the final two minutes of the half, Baum's two three-pointers sandwiched around five points by Crawford. UChicago went into halftime with a comfortable 61-42 lead. The Maroons shot 60.5 percent in the first half and sank 12 three-pointers in the opening 20 minutes.
The Maroons kept operating efficiently in the second half and took their biggest lead of the game at 78-48. Crawford threw down a dunk, was fouled and made his free throw to push the advantage to 30.
But then all of a sudden, Wheaton found its groove and stunningly came roaring back into the game. During a 10-minute stretch starting at the 12-minute mark, the Thunder went on a huge 40-11 run. Within that rally, a 27-3 burst gave Wheaton the lead 89-88 after a long three-pointer by Aston Francis. Wheaton's sophomore guard caused trouble for UChicago defenders all night long. Francis put up 35 points with a bevy of long threes, step-back mid-range jumpers and swooping glides to the basket.
Facing a one-point deficit with under two minutes to go, the Maroons snagged an important offensive rebound and put back from Barthel. Senior forward Waller Perez recaptured the lead at 92-91 by drawing a foul and making both free throws with 54 seconds remaining.
Wheaton attempted a rushed trey from the corner with eight seconds remaining, but Barthel was there to snag the ensuing rebound and was fouled. He split a pair with five seconds remaining to put UChicago ahead by three, 94-91. A strategic foul with two seconds left prevented the Thunder from getting a good look at a three-pointer. Wheaton split a pair of free throws and Crawford came up big once more with the rebound. A last-second heave by the visitors fell well short as UChicago emerged with the victory, 94-92.
The Maroons tied the school record with 17 three-pointers (45.9 percent) while also shooting 50 percent from the field overall. Turnovers went against the home side by an 18-7 margin. Fenlon posted 21 points and Crawford put up his third-straight double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Nine of his rebounds were on the offensive end. Baum tallied 15 points off the bench, while Perez posted 10 points and eight rebounds.
Wheaton shot 55.6 percent from the field and converted 11 of 23 from beyond the arc (47.8 percent). Both teams struggled at the charity stripe, combining to make 26 of 45 (57.8 percent).
- Saturday, Dec. 3 @ 3:00 PM (ET) – UChicago at Kalamazoo College