If there was ever any doubt of the validity of the UR men’s basketball team’s No.1 ranking, it was stifled pretty quickly this past weekend when the ‘Jackets shut down the second-ranked Brandeis University Judges en route to a 74-68 victory. UR improved to 14-0 (3-0 in conference play) with the win. It’s the best start for the ‘Jackets since the 2004-05 season when they began the year with 20 straight wins.
In front of packed stands at the Louis Alexander Palestra, Brandeis’ guards took over the court early, propelling the Judges to a 12-5 lead after five minutes of play.
The ‘Jackets quickly responded, however, making their presence known thanks to strong interior play led by senior center Jon Onyiriuka. Ten minutes in, back-to-back lay-ups by junior guard Max Kaplan and sophomore guard Brad Runco completed a 13-3 run for the ‘Jackets and gave them a lead that they maintained for the remainder of the game.
For the rest of the first half, UR distributed the scoring well among its players. The Yellowjackets’ leading scorer on the season, senior guard Robert Dominiak, did not even attempt a shot until the game was more than a quarter of the way completed, but then went two for two from the field and three for three from the free throw line to finish the half, including a 4-point play to give UR a 5-point lead nine minutes before the break.
Going into the second half, UR held an 8-point lead and was dominating in points in the paint, holding an 18-8 advantage over the Judges.
The second 20 minutes of play began with the teams trading scores. Brandeis got within one of the ‘Jackets with just over 12 minutes to play after guard Andre Roberson came off the bench and scored. He finished the game as the leading bench scorer for either team, netting 14 total points.
The ‘Jackets showed great resilience, however. Junior guard Mike Chmielowiec was big for UR in the second half, scoring nine points and going three for three from the line. He finished the game as UR’s leading scorer with 14 points in 33 minutes. The Yellowjackets also got a boost from freshman guard Mike Labanowski, who had nine points on 100 percent shooting from the field. Senior guard Jeff Juron led all players with nine assists and was one of three ‘Jacket players in double-digits.
Onyiriuka had nine points and five assists for UR, while Dominiak finished the game with 12 points and was 100 percent from the free throw line, keeping him perfect from the foul strike on the season.
Dominiak and Juron’s free-throw shooting was key in the final minute of the game, when the Judges came within two points of UR and were forced to foul ‘Jacket players.
The Yellowjackets also dominated from behind the 3-point line, shooting 64 percent, compared to 33 percent shooting by the Judges, from behind the arc. Leading Brandeis in scoring was guard Kevin Olson, who finished the game with 16 points.
UR came into the game having beaten another University Athletic Association rival, New York University, 70-54, on Friday and having just been crowned champions of the JP Morgan Chase Scholarship Tournament.
Against the Violets of NYU, UR shot 60 percent from the field in the first half to propel themselves to a 17-point lead going into the break.
Onyiriuka led the ‘Jackets, tallying the double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Dominiak had 16 points, including three 3-pointers in the first half alone, and Juron again led all players in assists with five.
UR started off the Chase Tournament against Keuka College, whom they blew out 81-37. Dominiak led all scorers with 17 points, while Chmielowiec added 10 points. It was Chmielowiec’s first game back after being sidelined with a hand injury for the first half of the season. Chmielowiec was UR’s leading scorer last year.
In the semifinals, UR beat SUNY Brockport, 75-70. Four ‘Jacket players were in double figures, including senior forward Uche Ndubizu, who led all scorers with 18 points while also grabbing 11 rebounds. Ndubizu also came up big against Nazareth College in the finals, banking 22 points and 14 rebounds, en route to an 87-75 victory for UR. He was later named Tournament MVP.
Dominiak also had 22 points in the finals, including six three-pointers, while Onyiriuka and Juron rounded off the ‘Jacket players in double figures with 10 and 12, respectively. Juron led UR with five assists, as well.
Senior forward Dan Milbrand also contributed to the win, adding eight points on four for five shooting and dishing out four assists in 16 minutes.
UR especially excelled in the first half, where they shot 56 percent from the field, including 50 percent from behind the three-point line.
In the second half, the ‘Jackets shot just over 60 percent from the field. Ndubizu scored 14 of his 22 points after halftime.
On the game, the ‘Jackets, as a team, shot 88.5 percent from the line. They also held a 38-16 advantage over Nazareth in rebounds and tallied 23 assists in comparison to 12 from the Golden Flyers. On top of that, UR’s bench players outscored Nazareth’s bench, 24-11.
The Yellowjackets pick up play again on Friday night against Emory University and then travel to Cleveland to take on Case Western Reserve University on Sunday before returning to the Palestra on Feb. 2 to take on fifth-ranked Washington University of St Louis.
Hilfinger is a member of the class of 2010.