CHICAGO – The University of Chicago men's basketball team took the 2018 NCAA Division III champions to the brink, but No. 8 Nebraska Wesleyan held strong down the stretch to hand the Maroons an 81-79 loss in Sunday's Midway Classic Consolation game.
The Maroons (1-4) erased a 12-point second-half deficit and took the lead with 5:28 to play, but the Prairie Wolves made their free throws down the stretch and UChicago's offense struggled in the final minutes against a NWU squad that finished 27-2 in 2018-19.
Nebraska Wesleyan (5-1) led 45-38 at the break after a first half that featured 13 3-point makes – eight by the Prarie Wolves and seven by the Maroons. The 3-point shot continued to be effective for UChicago in the second half, as the hosts would shoot 19 more, making six.
Midway through the second half, NWU appeared to have control with an 11-point lead after a Jack Hiller 3-pointer at the 12:35 mark. But the Maroons kept chipping away: an 8-0 run with buckets by Schmitz, Baum and Laravie brought the hosts within four, 63-59.
NWU would answer back with two made free throws and another Hiller 3, but that only spurred another UChicago run, this time 12-0 that gave the Maroons a 70-68 lead with 6:11 to play. Baum started the charge with a jumper, reserve Ryan Martin drained a triple and hit a layup in transition and Laravie and Bryce Hopkins added buckets in the key series.
Later tied at 74, the Prairie Wolves made two free throws to take the lead for the last time with 2:18 left. The Maroons were held scoreless until Schmitz's layup with 23 seconds to play and NWU made 5-of-6 from the free-throw line in the final minute to hold off the Maroons, as Baum's triple at the buzzer made the score 81-79.
The Maroons shot 40 percent (28-of-70) from the field and 35 percent (14-of-40) from the 3-point line compared to NWU's 50 percent (27-of-54) and 39.3 percent (11-of-28) marks. The Maroons committed just six turnovers and forced 13, and points in the paint stood even at 22 each.
UChicago's bench stepped up offensively, outscoring NWU's reserves 23-4.
- Tuesday, Nov. 26: Wheaton at UChicago, 8 p.m. CT