By Jamie Hospers
Sophomore point guard John DiBartolomeo spent most of the early season watching his team compete from the bench, unable to play because of injury. This weekend could not have been more different.
Scoring 27 points in each of UR’s last two victories over University Athletic Association rivals New York University and Brandeis University, DiBartolomeo’s presence on the court was unmistakable. After a close first 20 minutes versus Brandeis — with UR leading the Violets only 35-33 at halftime — DiBartolomeo closed the door by scoring 23 of his 27 points on the day in the second half. He also led the Yellowjackets in rebounds and assists, with seven and six, respectively.
Senior Mike Labanowski led the team in three-pointers, going five for eight from the arc in the team’s decisive 77-57 win.
Earlier that weekend, NYU posed an even greater threat to knocking off UR at the Palestra, but the home team held on for a 78-70 victory. DiBartolomeo once again scored 27 and received help from freshman Nate Vernon, who added 18.
DiBartolomeo and Vernon closed out the contest with a crucial combined five points in the last minute of the game. Great ball by Rochester’s leaders should not overshadow another reason for the men’s recent success: teamwork. According to freshman guard Greg Pennamon, the not-so-secret ingredient to winning games pertains to coming together as a group.
Pennamon cited the adversity UR faced early this season in the form of injuries to impact players DiBartolomeo and Vernon as opportunities on which the team took the chance to capitalize to learn to play elite ball, even with their main men out.
The Yellowjackets have been playing like champions, defeating two strong teams this weekend in NYU (12-8) and Brandeis (13-6) for the yellow and blue’s sixth and seventh consecutive victories.
UR, with a UAA record of 8-1, leads the league and will clinch the conference title if they win their next five games, all against UAA rivals. Next up is University of Chicago, the Yellowjackets’ only UAA loss this season. UR hopes to gain vengeance this Friday, when Chicago comes to the Palestra.
Hospers is a member of the class of 2014.