The men’s basketball team split with the University of Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis this past weekend at the Palestra. On Friday night, the Yellowjackets lost to a hot Chicago team, 76-73, in a game that they fought desperately to come back in. Sunday was a different story for Coach Neer’s crew as they downed Washington 66-61.
Going into the weekend, Chicago was ranked No. 14 in the nation while Wash U. was ranked No. 11 a top 25 poll from d3hoops.com. Both teams were also tied for first place in the University Athletic Association standings.
In the Chicago game, Rochester was up 9-8 with 16:38 left in the first half; this was the last time they led throughout the entire game. Once the Maroons got the lead, they never gave it back despite a ferocious comeback by the ‘Jackets after trailing by as much as 16. In the final three minutes of the game, Chicago led by nine points twice, and both times the lead was cut to two, showing the remarkable resilience of the Yellowjacket squad.
Junior shooting guard Rob Dominiak led in scoring for the second game in a row as he finished with 16 points. He stroked four three-balls on eight attempts and was a perfect four for four from the free-throw line.
Dominiak currently leads the team in three-point percentage and free-throw percentage. For the season he is shooting 45.6 percent (36 of 79) from beyond the arc and 91.7 percent (22 of 24) from the charity stripe.
Junior Jon Onyiriuka scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 39 minutes of work. Sophomore swingman Mike Chmielowiec also finished with 14 points and five rebounds.
All five Chicago starters scored in double figures. They were led by Jesse Meyer who finished with 17 points. Drew Adams and Nate Hainje each scored with 16, while Jason Vismantas ended with 12 points and 11 boards.
In the first half, Chicago was unconscious as they shot a stifling 75 percent from the floor. The Maroons hit 18 of 24 from the field and six of eight from outside the arc.
They led 19-9 after a 13-0 run in the first half that started and ended with Meyer. He hit a three to start the run and then finished it with an old-fashioned three point play. The ‘Jackets rallied back though and cut the lead to six (46-40) at halftime.
Chicago’s shooters proved to be human in the second half as they hit nine of 24 from the floor (38 percent) and only two of nine from behind the arc. The ‘Jackets shot 50 percent in the first half and 45 percent in the second half. UR was also perfect from the free-throw line making nine of nine.
With 3:05 to play in the game, Onyiriuka made a lay-up to pull the Yellowjackets within two points, 73-71. There was a scoring drought until Hainje made a couple free-throws with 1:08 left, 75-71. Onyiriuka then answered with a jumper that again made it a two point game, 75-73 with 52 seconds left.
Woodhead then drove the lane and missed a lay-up with 25 seconds left but the rebound deflected off a Rochester player giving the Maroons the ball back with 21.8 seconds left. With the ‘Jackets now forced to foul, they sent Vismantis to the line immediately after the inbound pass. Vismantis missed the first and hit the second giving the Maroons a three point lead but also leaving the door open for the ‘Jackets to send the game into overtime. Juron took the ball and rushed it up the court and frantically looked for an open player or an open shot. He found neither and heaved a desperation three from the top of the arc that hit iron. Woodhead gathered the rebound as the clock expired.
Before Sunday’s match up against Wash U., Coach Neer was honored with a formal proclamation for his 500th career victory. UR President Joel Seligman and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, G. Robert Witmer, Jr., were on hand to present Neer with the honor.
His 500th victory came on Jan. 5 of this year when UR defeated Brandeis 83-65 in the Palestra. He was also presented with the game ball inscribed with the date and final score of the contest. This season marks Neer’s 31st year as UR’s head coach; he has compiled a record of 509-300.
Again a comeback was needed by UR as they battled after falling behind seven points in the second half. Although they trailed for most of the game,
deficit was never greater than nine points.
UR was down 25-16 in the first half before a 10-2 Yellowjacket run fueled by Chmielowiec’s six points and Onyiriuka’s four. After a couple of free throws from Wash U.’s Troy Ruths, Brackney popped a three to tie the game 29-29 at the break.
UR trailed in the second half until junior Uche Ndubizu came up with a huge offensive rebound and dished it out to a wide open Brackney, who knocked down the trey.
“I got a really good look,” Brackney said, “Uche kicked it out to me, and I was so open that I knew it was good right after I shot it.”
The three-pointer by the senior captain gave UR a 60-58 lead with 5:18 to play. Chmielowiec hit a big fade away three with 2:31 left to take the lead 57-53; this time it was Onyiriuka who was credited with the assist.
UR also hit nine of 12 free-throws in the final 1:03 to seal the deal. Brackney was six of six from the line including four very clutch free-throws at the end of the game.
“I’m confident every time I go to the line that it’s going down,” Brackney said. “I didn’t really put any pressure on myself, the key is blocking out the pressure.”
The ‘Jackets finished the job as they walked away with a 66-61 victory thanks to clutch shooting down the stretch and good passing from the post players due to their terrific court vision and ability to find the open man.
“Bouncing back from a tough loss on Friday night shows a lot about this team; we could’ve easily folded and been down on ourselves, but we moved on and still have a shot at the tournament because we got over our frustrations from Friday night,” Brackney, who finished with a team high 14 points, said.
Chmielowiec netted 13 and junior point guard Jeff Juron had 12 points and a game high 11 rebounds. Onyiriuka finished with 12 points, nine boards and five assists.
Wash U.’s Ruths scored a game high 19 points. He also grabbed eight rebounds, blocked three shots and had four steals. Sean Wallis and Tyler Nading scored 14 and 12, respectively.
UR is now 17-7 overall, 8-5 in the UAA. They are tied for third place with NYU and Brandeis. Those two teams play next Saturday in the last game of the regular season.
Wash U. is 19-4 overall, 10-3 in the UAA. They are now in second place in the UAA while Chicago sits alone in the top spot with an 11-2 conference record (20-4 overall). Washington hosts Chicago next week in a game that will determine the UAA champion.
Rochester hosts Carnegie Mellon University this Saturday at 4 p.m. for their last game of the season. The game has enormous playoff implications for the ‘Jackets. With a win, they will be in good shape to receive an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament. Home-court advantage will be a crucial factor in the Carnegie Mellon game as the ‘Jackets have their minds set on avenging their 72-71 loss to the Tartans in the Palestra last season. “The Hive” needs to come out in full force to help the ‘Jackets get off the bubble and into the tourney.
“It’s going to be huge, all the work we’ve put in since October is going to be on the line. We need to pull this one out, we’ve worked too hard not to,” Dominiak said.Kahovec is a member of the class of 2008.