The men’s basketball team’s first league test did not prove to be much of a challenge.
Junior guards Jeff Joss and Tim Sweeney each scored 20 points as UR beat Carnegie Mellon University, 86-73, to improve to 1-0 in the University Athletic Association and 7-0 overall.
Joss, Sweeney and freshman forward Seth Hauben, who finished with 15 points, led the Yellowjackets on a 19-6 run to start the game.
Carnegie then went on a 15-5 run to pull to within three points, which is the amount UR led by at halftime, 34-31.
Joss, Sweeney and Hauben each scored six points to start the second half as the Yellowjackets went on an 18-6 run that gave them a 52-37 lead.
This time Carnegie was unable to make a comeback and UR ran away with its ninth straight win dating back to last season.
“In basketball, I think one of the most important parts of the game is the first five minutes of the second half,” Joss said.
He leads the Yellowjackets with 13.1 points per game, but he does not go into games looking to score.
“I go into the game more defensive-minded,” Joss said. “Defense actually helps me get into games more mentally and then my shot’s usually there after that.”
UR’s inside game has opened up the perimeter and the guards have taken advantage.
Joss is shooting 55.7 percent from the floor this year and 48.6 percent from three-point range.
Sweeney does most of his damage with 3-pointers, hitting 43.6 percent of his shots from behind the three-point line.
“We’re clearly dominating down low, so teams are collapsing from the perimeter,” Neer said.
“To be honest, we should be shooting a good percentage from three, because we’re getting high percentage three-point shots,” Neer continued
Joss also attributed UR’s success this season to better practices. “Our practices have been more competitive than I’ve ever seen,” he said.
“Every day people are going after each other, which is good for us. It gives us a competitive edge.”
UR has a week of practice to prepare for its next game. The Yellowjackets host St. John Fisher College at 8 p.m. Saturday.
UR then heads to the Rochester Institute of Technology Wednesday, Dec. 12 for its last game before winter break.
“Part of me doesn’t want to stop right now,” Neer said.
The basketball team’s winter break is much shorter than everybody else’s. The Yellowjackets return to school Friday, Dec. 28 to prepare for three league games in five days.
UR plays at New York University Friday, Jan. 4 and then in Boston against Brandeis University the following Sunday before returning home to host Emory University Tuesday.
“What’s important to coming back is really out of our hands as coaches because the kids are on their own,” Neer said. “I feel like writing a note to everybody’s mom.”
The Yellowjackets then have a week to prepare for the JPMorganChase Tournament ? the largest Div. III tournament in the country. Eight local teams play four games each in the three day tournament.
“That’s a very demanding test in any year,” Neer said. “It’s got a post-season feel to it right in the middle of your schedule. It’s a chance to kind of be the city champion.”
The first round is Jan. 16 at St. John Fisher College and SUNY Geneseo. UR hosts the semifinal and final rounds, Jan. 18 and 19. The fifth and seventh-place games are Jan. 19 at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
“The Chase Tournament is my favorite part of the season,” Joss said. “It sometimes can make or break your season.”
Jacobs can be reached at email@example.com.