The men’s basketball team came within a few seconds of having a chance to pull into a tie for first place in the University Athletic Association last weekend. Instead, the Yellowjackets have to hope that second place will be good enough to earn them a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

“The focus should be on winning each game that we play,” head coach Mike Neer said. “I would be very pleased if we win the rest of our games. If that’s good enough, that’s extra credit.”

UR started the weekend off on the right foot by defeating the University of Chicago 55-52 Friday. The win came just six days after a 54-51 victory at Chicago.

The Yellowjackets knew that they needed to make it a low-scoring game because Chicago is now 1-8 when scoring 70 or fewer points.

“Derek Reich is going to get his 25 points,” Neer said. “Chicago has a lot of stand-still three-point shooters and they hit their shots when you double down [on Reich].”

Reich finished with 27 points, but the rest of the Maroons only managed to score 25.

“We decided it was easier to take the three-point option out of their game than it is to take Reich out.”

Sophomore forward Brian Jones scored 16 points for the third straight game for the Yellowjackets.

First place slips away

UR had a chance to move into a tie for first place in the UAA against Washington University Sunday.

That chance seemed to disappear in the first half when a 12-0 Washington run and 12 UR turnovers gave the Bears a 13-point halftime lead. However, Neer knew that as poorly as his team had played, they were not yet out of the game.

“I was disappointed that we lacked poise in the first half, but I told them, ‘I know you will be back in this game and have a chance to win it,'” Neer said.

UR fought to get back into the game, but Washington made a little run every time the Yellow-jackets got close. UR hit three 3-pointers in the final minute and was helped out by some missed free throws from Washington.

Junior guard Jeff Joss banked in a 3-pointer from the right wing with 6.2 seconds left to tie the game at 63 for UR.

Washington point guard Matt Tabash then drove the length of the court and missed a short jumper, but Chris Jeffries grabbed the rebound and dropped in a layup at the buzzer.

“It’s tough to lose at the buzzer,” Neer said. “However, my disappointment is more why do we go through prolonged droughts in the first half of games.”

The loss dropped UR to 7-2 in the UAA ? with both losses to Washington ? and 16-4 overall. Washington improved to 9-0, 19-1.

“It makes it tough to win the UAA, but I don’t think it’s a stake in the heart,” Neer said. “Clearly Wash. U. is in a great position with a two-game lead. We need to get over this and we need more than just 20 minutes of good basketball.”

Tourney chances

Assuming Washington does win the UAA and the automatic NCAA Tournament bid that goes with it, UR will need to get one of the eight at-large bids in order to make the tournament.

“We clearly need to be ranked very high in our region,” Neer said. “I would like to think that beating Chicago and losing to the No. 1 team in the Midwest at the buzzer should not hurt you in your regional poll.”

UR is ranked No. 2 in the East, but Neer was more concerned about the Yellow-jackets’ poor play in the first half of recent games.

Since coming back from winter break, UR has been outscored by 14 points in the first half, but has outscored its opponents by 76 points in the second half in 12 games.

“We’re putting ourselves in a big hole with very, very inefficient offense,” Neer said. “It’s tough emotionally to play catch up the entire time.”

Senior Day

While he was not entirely pleased with the results of the weekend, Neer was very happy with the crowds that showed up to support the Yellowjackets.

“I thought it meant a lot to our team that we had a real great turnout by the students Friday and Sunday,” Neer said. “I want to thank them and I’m asking if they can do it again.”

UR plays its last two home games of the season this weekend.

The Yellowjackets host Brandeis University Friday at 8 p.m. and then play New York University Sunday at 1 p.m.

Sunday is also senior day and the Yellowjackets hope to send off their only senior, Kyle Leach, with a win.

Jacobs can be reached at

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