It was nothing short of sweet redemption for the UR men’s basketball team, as it edged top-ranked and undefeated Washington University in St. Louis Bears 83-82 in overtime Sunday, before an electric crowd at the Palestra.

Since defeating the Bears two years ago in St. Louis, the Yellowjackets had dropped two games to the Bears by a single basket, most recently an overtime loss earlier this season on the road.

According to head coach Mike Neer and his squad, the difference this time around was confidence and the home-court advantage.

“We all had a good feeling,” sophomore forward Seth Hauben said, who led the Yellowjackets with 25 points while matching a career-high in rebounds with 20. “We felt like we were going to win the game. It’s another level of confidence playing at home. We feel like no one can beat us when we are playing in our gym in front of our fans.”

“We went into the game really confident,” sophomore guard Gabe Perez said. “We dominated most of the game over at their place, so we knew that we could win and that we could beat them. It was really a revenge game — payback.”

The Yellowjackets also surfed into the Palestra on Sunday riding a wave of momentum that had crested on Friday night with an overpowering 71-54 win over the University of Chicago.

“We haven’t played with that kind of energy and focus for a long time,” Hauben said. Perez noted that “the chemistry between the team was so good Friday night that we knew it would carry over into the Washington game Sunday afternoon.”

The Yellowjackets, who entered the day on a 15-game home win streak, appeared evenly matched with the 22-0 Bears as the two teams readied for the 1 p.m. tip-off in front of a season-high 1250 fans.

UR gained the early edge, leading the Bears by five with fifteen minutes left in the first half before Washington went on a 9-0 run that left the Yellowjackets five behind. A layup by junior center Brian Jones followed by a 3-pointer from senior guard Tim Sweeney tied the game up at 18.

With two minutes remaining in the half, the Yellowjackets were in command, and held a comfortable 12-point lead. But UR was not destined to retire to the locker room with room to breathe. The Bears quickly gained ground and stole the momentum in the closing moments of the first half. Before UR knew what had hit them, the Bears had turned a double-digit lead into a one-possession game, heading into halftime down three.

A jump shot by Jarriot Rook early in the second half gave Washington its first lead since 8:37 in the first half.

The Bears were not done, though, and with thirteen and a half minutes remaining, took their biggest lead of the game at nine.

“Washington had tremendous momentum at the end of the first and beginning of the second half,” Neer said. “We took a time out and reminded the players that there was plenty of time left and that we needed to take care of business one possession at a time.”

The Yellowjackets took heed, and after a series of five well-executed plays, including a momentum-shifting three by Sweeney, UR found itself tied at 60-60.

Washington and UR stayed neck and neck for the remainder of the second half, with each team frantically trying to pull away.UR held a five-point advantage over Washington with less than two minutes remaining, but strong defense and sharp-shooting helped the Bears slash the lead to two late.

With eight seconds left on the game clock, the Bears had time for one more play. After eluding the tight UR defense, Bears forward Chris Jeffries, who lead the team in scoring with 26, dunked as time expired, sending the game into overtime.

The Yellowjackets took the early lead on a pair of free throws by Sweeney and would go up four a minute later courtesy of two Perez free throws and a layup by Jones.

But the Bears refused to lay down, as Dustin Tylka nailed a 3-pointer to cut the lead to one.

With 18 seconds left in the extra period, Washington had possesion and yet another opportunity to prolong the intense matchup.

But lightning would not strike twice for the Bears, as Tabash’s final attempt was blocked by senior guard Jeff Joss ending the Bears’ impressive run as college basketball’s last undefeated team.

“It’s been our goal this season to only focus on the things that we can control,” Neer said. “We can’t focus on officials, or travel or Tournament bids. All we can do is focus on basketball and that is why we won the game on Sunday.

“In both the Chicago and Washington game we had plans which in hindsight were right on the money,” he said. “It was also probably the best weekend of team concentration since the Thanksgiving tournament.”The two weekend wins tied UR with Chicago for second place in the UAA behind Washington.

This Sunday, after the winners of all 36 conferences have been decided, the chairs from the NCAA’s eight regions will decide which seven teams will receive at-large bids. Although UR is currently ranked No. 1 in the East, Neer knows the regional ranking doesn’t guarantee a Tournament birth. The only automatic spots are for conference champions.

Although UR will likely receive an at-large Tournament bid, Neer is careful to not look too far ahead.

“We are going to try to win our last regular season game Saturday. That’s all we can control. It would be nice to get an at-large bid to the Tournament but it’s not something we can afford to focus on,” Neer said.

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