URBB advanced to the NCAA Division III Sweet 16 for the ninth time in program history, and the first since the 2010-11 season, with wins over Albertus Magnus College and Union College. The Yellowjackets (23–4) continued their trend of outshooting opponents during the two games, which they hosted as part of a four-team playoff on Friday and Saturday.
Against the Albertus Magnus Falcons (23–5), UR held a 48.6–30 advantage in field goal percentage. The effect was amplified on 3-pointers, where they shot an impressive 44 percent and held the Falcons to a dreadful 2–24 (8.3 percent) mark. The game was only remotely close because of free throws, since the ‘Jackets only attempted seven to the Falcons’ 24.
UR led by double digits for most of the game, starting midway through the first half. The team first gained a stranglehold on its opponent when senior forward and UAA player of the year Sam Borst-Smith made a spin layup and a three-pointer in back-to-back possessions, giving the ‘Jackets a 33–17 lead and whipping the crowd into a frenzy.
Borst-Smith scored 18 of his 24 points in the first half. He also finished the game with five rebounds, five assists, and three steals, a statline that has been typical for him this season. Fellow senior guard and first-team All-UAA member Mack Montague further buried the Falcons in the second half, opening the period with three 3-pointers and 11 points in the first four minutes. He finished with 20 points, four rebounds, and three steals.
Senior forward and All-UAA second teamer Zack Ayers was limited by foul trouble for most of the game, leading him to only play 22 minutes. Nonetheless, he was an important presence for the ‘Jackets, recording 11 rebounds, five of them on the offensive end.
Sophomore guard and All-UAA honorable mention Jacob Wittig was a key performer as well, with 8 rebounds to go with his 9 points and 6 assists. Forward and fellow sophomore Andrew Lundstorm chipped in with an efficient 12 points and 5 rebounds in just 16 minutes.
The ‘Jackets used these performances and others to maintain a healthy lead over the Falcons, which grew to as much as 29 late in the second half.
The Falcons looked a bit cold shooting the ball when they happened to get decent looks, but that was probably because it was difficult to develop a rhythm from taking so many deep, contested shots on previous possessions. They largely had themselves to blame for this, since their typical offensive possessions involved a few perimeter passes and a lot of dribbling by one or two players, which manifested itself in an absurdly low 3 assists on the game.
After their opening win on Friday, UR moved on to play the Union Dutchmen (17–11), who the team had also played at home in December, a game which it won 77–58. The Yellowjackets had less of a degree of control in this game, though they led almost the entire time. They seemed to be running away with things in a similar manner to Friday, opening up the second half on a 9–2 run to push their lead to 43–24, but the Dutchmen owned the next 11 minutes, outscoring UR 36–22 to pull within seven.
The ‘Jackets responded to the tense situation by putting the game completely out of reach. They scored the next 15 points, 12 of them coming from Ayers and Borst-Smith. Although the tandem of Borst-Smith and Montague had less of a statistical impact on this game, scoring only 10 points each, Ayers picked up the slack, leading the team in scoring
He had 26 points on 10–13 shooting, despite logging only 20 minutes, and went 3–5 on 3-pointers. This contributed to an impressive team showing in that department, as UR made 14–24 from beyond the arc. Wittig, who had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds to go with 6 assists, made all three of his attempts. Overall, five Yellowjackets made multiple three-pointers.
Meanwhile, URBB once again limited their opponents’ shooting, as the Dutchmen went just 9–32 from three and shot 36.5 from the field overall.
The team’s next opponent promises to be tougher, as it will travel to Ohio to play at seventh-ranked Marietta College. However, if the ‘Jackets play like they did over the past weekend, they will have a good shot of surviving and advancing to the Final Four.
The weekend’s two games made it clear that the ‘Jackets are back to being the team that started the season 19–1, and not the one that lost three of its last five regular season games.