CHICAGO | Trying to control Marian Catholic junior Tyler Ulis, Marist came out in a box-and-1 on Friday night.
Ulis, the RedHawks controlled – for a half. He had but a pair of free throws in the first 16 minutes.
They could not control the other four Spartans. Not Joshua Cohn, who hit three three-pointers in the first quarter and had 13 points in the opening half. Not T.J. Parham, who scored seven points in the half. And really, not Ulis, who picked up three of his six assists in the first quarter.
The Spartans' school-record 23rd victory of the season, a 62-42 romp, was built on the foundation of that 20-5 first quarter.
"We practiced for a 1-3-1, they came out in a box-and-1, and we adjusted to that," Ulis said. "When Josh hit those threes, they sagged off."
And the adjustment was made by Ulis, who felt guard Lexus Williams' breath on him and shifted to distributing the ball before coach Mike Taylor could even raise his voice.
"It's great when you've got a point guard who doesn't have to wait for a time out to make adjustments," Taylor said. "You see what that does to us. It makes us hard to guard."
Taylor sat Ulis, Parham, sixth man Kevin Phillips and Xavier Parker last week against Joliet Catholic for a violation of team rules, but it was all smiles on Friday.
Ulis would end up with 12 points, Cohn with 17, Parham with 15. But it was all built on the start, and defensively as well as on offense. They forced Marist into bad-angle and off-balance shots. The RedHawks were 2-of-11 from the floor in the first quarter, while Marian was 7-of-12.
Marist (16-7, 3-3) was led by Williams' 18 points. L.J. McIntosh added 14.
It all added up to a 20-point margin and a 23rd victory. Marian Catholic (23-3, 4-2) had won 22 games in 2005-06, and matched that total last week against the Hilltoppers.
"This really feels great," Cohn said. "Hard work pays off."
As does cohesion. Cohn, Ulis, John Oliver and Ki-Jana Crawford have been together for three years. All are juniors. Beyond the possibilities for this March, there's the potential for even better things next season, when the quartet, along with Parham, are seniors.