After two weeks of non-conference games, the UR men’s basketball team kicked off league play with a home game against Carnegie Mellon University on Saturday, Dec. 1. The Tartans came into the game 3-1, but were no match for the ‘Jackets, who preserved their unbeaten record with a 64-50 win.

UR’s frontcourt made the difference in the game, outrebounding the Tartans, 45-27, and holding a 43-22 advantage in points in the paint. The senior trio of center Jon Onyiriuka, forward Uche Ndubizu and forward Dan Milbrand each scored double figures and combined for 30 rebounds and 43 points. Coming off the bench, Milbrand was especially effective before halftime, tallying 10 of his 12 points and collecting six of his seven rebounds in the first 20 minutes. Ndubizu had the game-high points scored with 16 and also grabbed 13 rebounds, 11 of which were offensive. Onyiriuka logged 15 points and nine rebounds.

The game was a tale of two halves. In the first, the game was tightly contested, with three lead changes and neither team gaining more than a five-point advantage. In the second, UR pounced on the Tartans’ inability to sink shots and never trailed, leading by as many as 20 points.

CMU held the lead for the first 10 minutes of the game, but was unable to sustain pressure and gain a true advantage over the home team. The ‘Jackets finished the half strongly, benefiting from their constant interior presence and solid bench play, and went into halftime with a two-point lead.

To start the second half, UR, most recently ranked second nationally in Division III in a poll, went on a 15-4 run and never looked back. The run was fueled mainly by the play of Onyiriuka, who made 11 of his 15 points in the second. The Yellowjackets also got points from freshman guard Mike Labanowski, who went 3-7 from three-point range and finished the game with nine points.

On the defensive side of the ball, junior guard Max Kaplan led the ‘Jackets with four steals. Sophomore guard Brad Runco also contributed by grabbing six rebounds for UR. Hustle play was huge for the Yellowjackets, who did a good job throughout the game of giving themselves second chance opportunities and, in the second half especially, of limiting the Tartans’ opportunities. UR also held CMU to only 31 percent shooting from the field and allowed them to get to the free throw line only three times in the second half.

On Wednesday, the ‘Jackets traveled to Geneva, N.Y. to take on the 4-1 Statesmen of Hobart College. Again, the result came out in favor of UR, who stayed unbeaten by downing Hobart 70-57. The Yellowjackets were led by Dominiak, who had 17 points, and Onyiriuka, who had 16 points, and also got a good game from Ndubizu, who contributed with 13 boards.

On the other side of the court, the ‘Jackets held the Statesmen to just 33 percent shooting from the field. Hobart was also out-rebounded by UR, 42-30.

Milbrand rounded off the list of ‘Jacket players in double-digit points with 12. Onyiriuka also had two blocks and, with his 16 points, surpassed the 1,000-career point mark. Runco gave the ‘Jackets a defensive spark with four steals.

In the first half, the Yellowjackets led by as many as eight points. Hobart tied the game 26-26 with just under three minutes left in the half, but UR quickly responded, hitting back-to-back threes to grab a six-point lead. They entered halftime holding a 32-27 edge over the Statesmen.

Onyiriuka started off the second half for the ‘Jackets with a three-point play, but Hobart responded with two threes and a two-pointer, tying the game at 35. From that point on, it was all UR, who built its largest lead of the game by going on a 19-6 run. Hobart never came within seven points of the Yellowjackets for the remainder of the game.

The ‘Jackets, however, were far from perfect on the night. UR shot only 58 percent from the free-throw line, including an abysmal 25 percent in the first half and, for the first time this season, the ‘Jackets had more turnovers than assists. They played up to par when it counted, however, making free throws late in the game to keep the score in their favor.

The Yellowjackets will take on Rochester Institute of Technology on Tuesday, Dec. 11, and finish off their first semester schedule with a home game against St. John Fisher University on Friday, Dec. 14 before a long break.

Hilfinger is a member of the class of 2010.

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