In the wake of an easy 78-48 win against Carnegie Mellon University on Saturday and intense NCAA Division III Selection Sunday, the UR men’s basketball team found itself set upon the road to the Division III National Championship for the second consecutive year.
Seeded number one in the East Region, the Yellowjackets have earned a first round bye and will play the winner of the Clark University-Western Connecticut State University game to be played tonight in Worcester, Mass. The winner of that contest will travel to Rochester to take on the Yellowjackets on Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Palestra.
With a regular season record of 22-3 — 12-2 in the UAA — and a ranking of sixth in the nation according to the independent www.d3hoops.com, the Yellowjackets earned one of the few at-large berths to the NCAA Tournament. If UR captures the East Region, they will go on to participate in the Division III Final Four to be held in Salem, Va.
“Right now, we are exactly in the position that we worked hard to be in,” head coach Mike Neer said. “We improved on last year’s 21-4 record to 22-3 in a tougher schedule and came out with the number one seed, a bye and home-court advantage.”
Clark and Western Connecticut present a contrast of styles to the Yellowjackets. Both teams are ranked in the top-15 in the country in total points scored, each averaging more than 80 per game. Clark is a smaller-sized team that attacks aggressively off the dribble and is not afraid to step behind the arc — they are ranked 6th in the nation in 3-point attempts averaging nearly 10 tries per contest.
Like UR, Western Connecticut is a deep team that has size coming off the bench. They are not a transition-minded team like Clark, but can also do damage out of their a half-court set.
UR segues into postseason play with the confidence that can only come from a sound drubbing of a UAA rival. The Yellowjackets edged the Carnegie Mellon Tartans at Pittsburgh back in December and defeated the Tartans by an even greater margin playing at home in the Palestra.On Senior Night for the Class of 2003, the team received contributions from several of its fourth-year players. Seniors Tim Sweeney, Justin Hughes, Jeff Joss and Ryan Kadlubowski were all honored on Saturday.Joss scored a career high of 27 points in the game including six 3-pointers as UR built a lead over Carnegie Mellon that peaked at 10 with under four minutes before halftime. But the Yellowjackets let the big advantage dwindle a bit, and headed into the break up by only four points at 32-28.
But thanks to a 14-2 run, UR built up a 15-point lead at 49-34 and would never look back. The Yellowjackets steamrolled over the Tartans, going up by over 30 points before the buzzer mercifully ended the contest, giving the Yellowjackets a 78-48 victory.
Joss’ 27 points brought his career total to 1,030, good for 17th overall in the Yellowjacket record books.
Schloss can be reached at email@example.com.