After missing the 2020-21 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Case Western Reserve University men’s basketball team came into the 2021-22 season ready to get back on the court. And this season, the team—which is already considered among the best in school history—is extending its play.
For the first time ever, the Spartans will appear in the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Championship, earning an at-large bid to the tournament after finishing the regular season 18-6 and second in the University Athletic Association, with an 8-5 record in league play. The team’s 18 wins are the most in program history, as are its eight conference victories. The Spartans will travel to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to face the University of Dubuque Friday, March 4, at 5:45 p.m. in the first round.
A true team effort
Head Coach Todd McGuinness recruited three graduate students—forward Brian Hines and guards Mitch Prendergast and Griffin Kornaker—to build on the team’s strong core. All three started in all 24 regular season games. Prendergast, the Spartans’ top shooting threat, earned All-UAA First Team honors after leading the team with 17.6 points per game. Kornaker, who runs the offense from the point guard position, set a new single-season program record for assists with 156. Hines, the team’s presence in the paint, set a new program record by making 69.3% of his shots.
Junior forward Cole Frilling, senior guard Robert Faller and senior forward Ryan Newton were the core of a Spartan team that went 22-28 (.440) over the last two full seasons. Frilling earned All-UAA Second Team honors after winning the conference Rookie of the Year award in the 2019-20 season. He is second on the team in scoring this season (16.6 points per game) and leads the team with 7.0 rebounds per game. Faller started all 24 games for CWRU so far this season, averaging 10.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Newton is the team’s sixth man, appearing in 22 games and averaging 9.2 points and 4.0 rebounds per game.
A record-setting season
After suffering a season-opening loss, the Spartans matched a program record by winning their next 10 games. On Jan. 8, Newton extended the winning streak to a program-best 11 games with a last-second tip-in to beat Carnegie Mellon University. In the next game, CWRU defeated New York University 98-71—the most points in a conference game since the 1997-98 season. The team sat in first place in the conference after the first two weekends of the year.
Following the Spartans’ win at NYU, the team appeared in the D3Hoops.com Top 25 Poll for just the second time in program history, ranking No. 24. The ranking was also the highest for the program since the poll started in the 1999-2000 season.
A loss to Emory University, the eventual conference champion, ended the team’s winning streak. CWRU rebounded by winning its next four contests, including an upset of then-No. 3 Washington University in St. Louis inside Horsburgh Gymnasium on Jan. 30. Following the win, the Spartans were in sole possession of second place in the conference.
Though the team lost four of its next five games, it rebounded with a triumphant come-from-behind win in the regular season finale against Carnegie Mellon. The Spartans, down 12 points early in the second half, responded to McGuinness’s halftime speech, rallying to a 92-83 win on ‘Senior Day’ and cementing the team’s place in program history.
More information about Case Western Reserve’s game against Dubuque can be found at athletics.case.edu.