In early December, UR fell to the Carnegie Mellon University Tartans, 78-71, in their first University Athletic Association game. Entering conference play with a loss is a tough bullet to bite.
Put yourself in senior Brendan McAllister’s shoes. The Pittsburgh native had a cheering section of friends and family. To top it off, McAllister didn’t have one of his best shooting nights.
“When we lost there, I was one for 10,” McAllister said.
That night in Pittsburgh fueled the fire for the UAA Conference Championship and a trip to the NCAA Division III Tournament on March 5.
The game against the visiting Tartans was expected to be two 20-minute periods of grueling basketball. McAllister started slowly, but struck with fury in the last half of the game.
His combination of three pointers and jumpers helped the Yellowjackets knock out CMU, 62-57, on Feb. 26 in front of a large and loud crowd.
McAllister lit up the scoreboard with a career high 24 points, including six three-point goals.
His knockout punch was the game-breaking shot that came on a 10-foot runner in the lane with 24 seconds left.
The shot gave UR a 60-55 lead and ended a five-minute scoring drought.
“This was one of Brendan’s best games, and it came at no bigger time,” Head Coach Mike Neer said. “He is our best weapon in the second half. Also, he is a solid, dependable man-to-man defender.”
UR’s other three-point shooter, senior Ryan Mee, clinched the victory for the Yellowjackets, sinking two free throws with only three seconds left in the game.
Freshman Jon Onyiriuka scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds for his team – all seven rebounds were on the offensive end.
All-American forward senior Seth Hauben was held to nine points, but grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds.
With the victory and an automatic NCAA tournament spot, UR earned a first round bye and will host a second round game on March 5.
The Yellowjackets will play the winner of the first round game between Union College of New York and Gwynedd Mercy College of Pennsylvania on March 3.
The team is taking its fourth straight trip to the Division III playoffs, a first in school history.
This is also the fourth straight year UR has received a first round bye and is the 10th NCAA playoff appearance under Neer.
The Yellowjackets finished the regular season with a 21-4 record, 12-2 in the UAA.
Five UR players have earned All-Association honors from the UAA.
For the second consecutive year, Hauben was named the Men’s Player of the Year.
He was joined on the All-UAA First Team by senior guard Gabe Perez.
Three teammates of his – McAllister,
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Onyiriuka, and freshman Jeff Juron – were Honorable Mention.
Also for the week of Feb. 13-19, D3hoops.com placed Hauben on its team of the week. The senior led the Yellowjackets with 27 points and 16.5 rebounds per game in UR’s Midwest swing versus Chicago University and Washington University in St. Louis. In the last D3Hoops.com Top 25 rankings, UR moved up three spots from last week to No. 21.
Thursday night’s first round match up between Gwynedd Mercy and Union involves two different styles of play.
Gwynedd Mercy is an athletic, scrappy team that likes to play a fast tempo game – whereas Union is a team not afraid to shoot from deep.
The Yellowjackets will have less than 48 hours to fully prepare for its opponent in Saturday’s second round contest.
Whichever team it is, UR’s senior class will have its team ready for upcoming challenge. The Yellowjackets’ season moves on, with only 5 games left to achieving its goal, the NCAA Division III crown.
Rovinsky can be reached at email@example.com.