The Nazareth College Golden Flyers snapped UR’s 13-game winning streak, humbling the Yellowjackets 70-59 in the finals of the JP Morgan Chase Scholarship Tournament at Roberts Wesleyan College last Saturday. The decisive defeat, and the Yellowjackets’ first of the season, comes on the heels of a five-game win streak to start the new year that included crucial wins over UAA rivals Brandeis and New York University. The loss comes at a tough time for the team which is currently jockeying with UAA rival Washington University- St. Louis for the spot of premier Division III team in the nation. The loss shot the Yellowjackets, who had held the No. 2 spot in the national rankings since the beginning of the season, all the way down to sixth overall.
The loss to Nazareth was a tale of numbers — numbers that the Yellowjackets struggled to produce. The first half momentum see-sawed between both squads, with UR leading by as many as five before allowing a 14-3 run by Nazareth which enabled the Golden Flyers to retake the lead 23-17. The advantage continued to swing back and forth throughout the remainder of the first period, with Nazareth leading by two at halftime. Both teams were accurate from the floor. UR shot 50 percent from the field to Nazareth’s 55.2 percent.
The numbers of the first half, while showing the even-handedness that characterized the play, all too painfully reveal the breakdown that led to UR’s first loss of the season. The Golden Flyers were 10-25 on field goals but the Yellowjackets lagged behind at a paltry six shots for 31 attempts — 19 percent. The Flyers capitalized on UR’s jitters, scoring 10 points from turnovers while the Yellowjackets were able to notch only one in response.
Behind by 12 points with nine minutes left to play, there was a collective awareness of the impending disaster as the Yellowjackets broke into a second wind. Senior Jeff Joss hit a pair of threes and was quickly followed up by a couple of free throws by junior Andy Larkin to shrink UR’s point deficit to four with seven minutes to go. The damage however had been done and when the Nazareth defense went into overdrive, allowing only one UR basket in the final seven minutes of play, the fate of the Yellowjackets was sealed.
“Unfortunately, it was hard to overcome poor shooting,” said Head Coach Mike Neer. “Baskets were few and far between and it puts a lot of pressure on your defense when you are up against a great offensive team like Nazareth.”
Joss led the Yellowjackets in scoring with 21 points followed by senior guard Tim Sweeney with 11 points. Joss and Larkin were both named first team All-Tournament. In addition, Joss’s 16 three-pointers over the course of three games tie the tournament record for most three-point field goals.
Rochester advanced to the finals the night before with a convincing 74-43 win over the St. John Fisher Cardinals in the tournament’s second semi-final matchup. The top-seeded Yellowjackets overcame a sluggish start before going on an offensive tear in which they held the Cardinals scoreless for over four minutes while recording 14 points of their own.Joss and Larkin combined to net 12 of the 14 points during the run to increase UR’s lead to 28-13.
The Yellowjackets stayed hot out of the halftime locker room, doubling the Cardinals’ score while streaking on a 21-6 point run that effectively put the game out of reach for St. John Fisher.
Junior forward Brian Jones chipped in with eight points and five rebounds in 11 minutes of action off the bench.
This Friday the Yellowjackets travel to Missouri to take on the nation’s number-one ranked team, the Washington University-St. Louis Bears. Last season the Yellowjackets suffered two tough losses to their bitter UAA foe by a total of five points. Jones lead UR in scoring both games, averaging 15.5 per contest. This year the men look to avenge their losses.