It was “On the Road Again” for the UR men’s basketball team as the squad hit the dusty trail for a tiring weekend of rematches against bitter UAA rivals Emory University and Case Western Reserve University. The trip was a successful one, as the Yellowjackets picked up a pair of wins along the way and improved their record to 17-3 overall and 6-2 in the UAA.
The Emory Eagles were looking for a dogfight as UR arrived in Atlanta Friday for a rematch of the Yellowjackets’ 92-74 blowout in the Palestra last Sunday. UR got to a comfortable start, outscoring the Eagles and playing stingy defense throughout the first period en route to a sixteen point lead at halftime.
“We played a lot better than Emory in the first half,” head coach Mike Neer said. “But Emory has some talented players who got hot in the second half.”
The Eagles rallied after the mid-game break, igniting a 20-8 run that totally erased the Yellowjackets’ cushion, knotting the game at 51.
A minute later, a three-pointer by Rashawn Allen put Emory in control 54-53 for the first time all night. But the Yellowjackets focused on countering Emory’s three-point dominance with quick play in the paint by senior guard Jeff Joss and sophomore guard Gabe Perez.
Abolaji sank a jump shot with just over a minute remaining on the game clock to give Emory the slight advantage. But the Yellowjackets would not go down without a fight and came down the court looking to take the final shot.
It was Larkin who pulled through with the clutch play for UR, putting back a missed three-pointer by Joss just before the final buzzer sounded clinching a narrow 68-67 victory for the Yellowjackets.
Commenting on leaving Atlanta with a win by the skin of their teeth, Neer said “sometimes you don’t ask why something happened the way it did, you just have to be thankful it worked out in our favor.”
Two days later, Larkin and junior center Brian Jones combined for 44 points in an 81-77 win over Case Western. Both the Yellowjackets and the Spartans played evenly in the first half, retiring to the halftime locker rooms in a 35-35 tie. Jones, who came off the bench in the first half and netted 15 points, was put into the lineup by Neer to start the second half. With the Spartans’ defense focused on preventing Jones and Joss from getting open looks, Neer turned to Perez as a third offensive option. Perez routinely capitalized on constant penetration in the lane, getting to the basket with the help of numerous screens at the top of the key.
“We only had one three-pointer in the entire game but still scored 81 points, so I think that scheme worked well for us,” Neer said.
UR quickly surged over the Spartans at the start of the second half but the Spartans would chip away at Yellowjackets’ lead until the game was again tied with just over ten minutes remaining to play. Larkin and Jones teamed up again to push the team ahead. But Case Western was relentless, cutting UR’s lead to 70-68 with time winding down. The Yellowjackets padded their lead as the final minutes waned, securing their second win over Case Western this season.
Addressing the state of the team as the Yellowjackets head into the final leg of the regular season, Neer remarked that “we are relatively healthy and we are working hard. Our players believe that we are going to win, and so do I.”
Schloss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.