On the heels of their first loss of the season — an 82-64 defeat that snapped a season-opening three-game winning streak — the Yellowjackets picked up right where they left off over the weekend with a pair of wins to capture the Holiday Inn Airport Tournament Championship in dominating fashion.
UR opened with a 106-58 humiliation of an overwhelmed Wells College squad on Saturday, Nov. 26 at the Palestra. The Yellowjackets simply appeared to be the better team, combining speed, aggressiveness and size to surge to an early 10-2 lead just five minutes into the game. By halftime, they boasted nearly twice the Express’ score, 53-28.
Some sharp shooting was key to the home team’s success, as three-pointers on the parts of senior guard Chris Dende and sophomore guard Nate Vernon and overall on-the-mark shooting from junior guard John DiBartolomeo powered the ’Jackets to an early lead. The ’Jackets shot 6-for-10 (60 percent) from outside the arc during the first quarter, raining three-pointer after three-pointer over a helpless Express defense, and 62 percent from the floor in the same quarter. Wells’ offense was the exact opposite, as the visitors managed just 41 percent shooting from the floor and a miserable 25 percent on three-point attempts.
Dende drained two more three-pointers to crack open the second half, and DiBartolomeo quickly followed with two three-pointers of his own to extend his team’s lead to 70-35.
With this cushion, head coach Luke Flockerzi saw fit to give his bench players some court time. Freshman guards Connor Caldwell, Kent Coyne and Mahesh Umasankar and sophomore guard Greg Pennamon capitalized on the opportunity, combining for nine points.
DiBartolomeo, however — as he has before — proved to be the ’Jackets’ greatest asset throughout the game, finishing with 20 points and nearly perfect (7-for-8) shooting to go along with seven assists and five rebounds. Junior center Rob Reid, whose breakaway layup pushed the home team’s lead to 21, had a career game as well, supplying 14 points, 11 rebounds and four assists, while Vernon (16 points) and senior center Marcus Williams (14 points) also played instrumental roles in the win.
UR returned to the court the following day to take on Allegheny College in the championship game. Unlike the Wells game, it was the opposing Gators who took the early lead this time around, as Allegheny built a 10-point advantage just three minutes in. Shortly thereafter, however, DiBartolomeo’s three-point play capped a solid run by the home team that brought them within four (19-15).
With the Gators up, 28-22, Novosel and Vernon combined for 13 of UR’s points in a 28-14 run that put the home team up, 50-42 at halftime.
It was all yellow and blue in the second half, as the Yellowjackets’ shooting caught fire in similar fashion to that of the Wells game. The ’Jackets shot 71 percent from the floor and sank seven of 12 three-point shots, all but closing out the Gators in the 99-74 win.
Dende, who was eight-of-ten from the floor, led all scorers on the day with 20 points, while DiBartolomeo had 17 points. DiBartolomeo was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player; Dende was also awarded All-Tournament honors.
With the win, the Yellowjackets improve to 4-1 while remaining undefeated at home.
Bernstein is a member of the class of 2014.