CHICAGO — Chicago made its free throws down the stretch and knocked off No. 5 Washington (Mo.) 68-60 in the UAA conference opener on Saturday.
The Maroons improved to 7-5 overall. The Bears fell to 10-2 overall.
Chicago struggled mightily from the onset of the game, missing its first 11 shots from the field. That drought allowed Washington to get out to an 11-3 lead eight minutes into the game. The Bears came into the contest with the best rebounding margin in the nation (plus-17.2 per game), and Chicago expended much of its effort into keeping the post clogged and not allowing Washington to flex its muscle inside. The visitoring Bears compensated by shooting open jumpers from around the free throw line and hitting shots off high screens at the top of the key.
Once freshman Alex Voss knocked down the first jumper of the day, the Maroons regrouped and climbed their way back into the game. Coming out of a timeout, freshman Jordan Smith sprinted past his defender and slammed a dunk to give Chicago its first lead at 18-17.
Wayne Simon and Alex Pyper made consecutive 3-pointers to expand the Maroons’ lead to 28-22. Simon provided a spark off the bench with a critical block and a pair of treys in the half. The Maroons held a 32-27 lead at halftime despite only shooting 33.3 percent from the field. Chicago hit 8 of 11 free throws and got several Washington post players into foul trouble. The Bears did not attempt a free throw in the half and turned the ball over seven times.
In the second half, Washington drew within one point at 32-31. That’s when Charlie Hughes stepped up and recorded seven points during an 11-0 Maroons run. Chicago took its largest lead of the half 50-38 following a 3-pointer from Smith.
The Bears picked up their aggression offensively and closed the distance with a 14-5 run to pull within 55-52. A jumper by Smith and layups by Royce Muskeyvalley and Hughes pushed the lead back to 61-53.
Washington began fouling to get back into the game in the final two minutes. However, Chicago made 7 of 10 from the charity stripe the rest of the way, with Muskeyvalley contributing six of the makes.
The Maroons outhustled the Bears in the paint over the course of the second half and ended up with a 41-35 rebounding edge against the nation’s top rebounding team. Chicago also owned a distinct advantage at the free throw line, shooting 16 of 24 compared to 5 of 11 by the Bears.