The UR men’s basketball team has yet to rebound from the shocking upset to Nazareth College in the finals of the JP Morgan Chase Scholarship Tournament, dropping a pair of games to UAA rivals Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Chicago over the weekend in what head coach Mike Neer called the “most grueling road trip of the year.”

Neer attributes the Yellowjackets’ current struggles to the loss of an equilibrium that had been UR’s key to success in dominant early-season victories. “The strength of our team has been the balance and we’ve lost that balance,” said Neer. “We’ve had some players performing spectacular on offense and other players who have been having a real rough time with offensive performance.”

The Yellowjackets traveled to St. Louis to take on the number-one ranked Bears in what was being touted as Division III basketball’s premier weekend match-up. UR performed admirably under the stress of playing the number one team in their arena in front of 2,400 rowdy fans.UR had control of the lead lead for over thirty minutes until the Bears rallied in the final moments of the second half to pull ahead. Down by three with less than a minute left to play, senior guard Jeff Joss sank a three-pointer to tie the game at 66 and send the action into overtime.

The Yellowjackets were up 71-69 with 1:23 left in overtime when sophomore forward Seth Hauben, who led the Yellowjackets with a monstrous 30 points against the Bears, fouled out. Forward Chris Jefferies sank the two ensuing free throws for the Bears, tying the game at 71. Washington’s Jarriot Rook hit a jumper to edge UR by two at 0:32 on the game clock and another free throw tacked on by Bear Matt Tabash put the score at 74-71 with seven seconds left to play.

With 2.8 seconds remaining, the Yellowjackets had the ball out of bounds on the baseline and one last shot to send the action into a second overtime. The Yellowjackets got off an open three-pointer at the buzzer but it was only heartbreak when the shot didn’t connect, clinching UR’s second loss of the season.

“We played pretty well,” commented Neer on his team’s performance against the Bears. “We played a very good game against the best team in the country but in the end we came up one basket short. It’s disappointing but not nearly as disappointing as yesterday’s loss,” said Neer referring to the 72-60 defeat suffered at the hands of the Chicago Maroons in a Sunday game in the Windy City.

The Yellowjackets set the pace of the first half with Joss and Sweeney combining for a total of six three-pointers before halftime. However, superior play in the paint and an accurate free-throw display by the Maroons trimmed the Yellowjackets’ lead to one point at the conclusion of the first half.

Chicago blazed ahead of the Yellowjackets on a 14-2 run at the beginning of the second half while UR struggled from the field –shooting a subpar 25 percent on 7 of 28 shooting. The Yellowjackets struggled to keep up with the white-hot Maroon offense, and could get no closer than five with just under five minutes.

The two UAA loses may have tournament implications as the Yellowjackets fall into third place in the UAA behind the Maroons and the still-undefeated Bears. The UAA has no conference tournament and the NCAA gives out very few at-large bids to the 48-team NCAA Division III Tournament. The Yellowjackets will have to play very strong basketball against formidable opponents as the season enters its final full month of play, including a contest with Emory, 9-5, and rematches against Chicago and Washington at the Palestra.

With little room for error, the Yellowjackets will treck on and hope that “there’s no place like home,” when their talented foes come to town.

Schloss can be reached at aschloss@campustimes.org.



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