Two weeks into the season, the UR men’s basketball team is off to a promising start. The ‘Jackets are 5-0 and have been crowned tournament champions twice already. Two weekends ago, the ‘Jackets kicked off their season, playing in the Chuck Resler Tournament. UR beat SUNY New Paltz in the first game, 73-43, and then defeated SUNY Oneonta, 72-53, to capture the tournament crown. Three days later, the Yellowjackets traveled to Nazareth College and came away with a 68-51 victory. This past weekend, UR was back in the Palestra, surpassing SUNY Cortland and Ohio Wesleyan to win the Holiday Inn Airport Invitational.

Against New Paltz, the ‘Jackets were dominating. In the first half, UR jumped out to a 37-24 lead, led by junior guard Max Kaplan, who scored all 11 of his points in the first 20 minutes of play. Senior center Jon Onyiriuka and senior forward Dan Milbrand each snatched seven rebounds before halftime.

In the second half, it was senior forward Uche Ndubizu who gave the ‘Jackets their spark, scoring 12 points off the bench and logging two rebounds.

UR also shot 65 percent from the field in the second half, blowing past the Hawks en route to a 30 point victory. Four players – Ndubizu, Kaplan, senior guard Robert Dominiak and senior guard Jeff Juron – put up double digit points for the ‘Jackets, while Onyiriuka and Milbrand led the team in rebounds with 10 and nine, respectively.

In the second game of the round robin tournament, UR took on the SUNY Oneonta Red Dragons. This time it was Dominiak who took over for the ‘Jackets. Dominiak scored 24 points, shooting 75 percent from the field and 66 percent from behind the arc to lead UR to a 72-53 victory. As a team, the ‘Jackets shot 50 percent from the field, held a 20 point advantage for points in the paint and scored 22 points off turnovers to earn their second win of the season.

Ndubizu almost logged the double-double, scoring 17 points and taking nine rebounds. Milbrand had 12 points and five rebounds off the bench. Ndubizu was named to the All-Tournament Team, while Dominiak was awarded Tournament MVP.

Against Nazareth last Tuesday, UR again showed its muscle in the paint, outscoring the Golden Flyers 46-16 in that department. The ‘Jackets held Nazareth to only 17 points in the first half and 31 percent shooting from the field. Led by Onyiriuka, who posted the double-double by scoring 22 points and grabbing 13 rebounds, and Ndubizu, with 20 points and eight rebounds, UR never trailed in the game and improved to a 3-0 record.

In the first 13 minutes of play, the ‘Jackets jumped out to a 17-5 lead. Nazareth responded, tightening the game by going on an 11-5 run to pull within six. UR wasn’t about to surrender their lead, however, and finished the half on a 9-1 run.

In the second, the Flyers never got within nine points of the ‘Jackets. Dominiak and Kaplan both drained big three-pointers with less than three minutes to play to give UR a comfortable cushion down the stretch. Kaplan also had six assists in the game.

UR returned to the Palestra to play in the four-team HIA tournament this past weekend. In their first game against Cortland, UR demonstrated great balance on the offensive side of the ball en route to a 72-50 victory. Four players were in double digits in points, including Milbrand with 12, Dominiak with 13, Onyiriuka with 15, and Ndubizu with 12. Onyiriuka also had nine rebounds, as did freshman guard Mike Labanowski. Kaplan, who was held scoreless in the game, contributed by dishing out 10 assists.

The ‘Jackets shot 52 percent from the field, while keeping the Dragons contained to shooting only 35 percent. UR also held a 15-4 advantage in second chance points, and the Yellowjacket bench out-scored the Red Dragon bench 25-15.

With the win, UR advanced to the championship game against the Ohio Wesleyan Battling Bishops, who entered the game 2-1. The Bishops jumped out to a fast start, outscoring UR 38-30 in the first half on 72 percent shooting. The ‘Jackets battled back in the second, however, shooting 74 percent, including 67 percent from three-point range, to come from behind and beat the Bishops 76-69.

The second half comeback was sparked by Dominiak, who scored 20 points after halftime, including 11 during a 17-3 ‘Jacket run. The run turned a three-point deficit into an 11-point lead for UR and began when Onyiriuka fed the ball to Ndubizu for the layup in response to a Bishop layup.

For the game, the ‘Jackets were led by Dominiak, who broke his previous career-high set against Oneonta with 26 points. Dominiak tied the UR record and the men’s Palestra record with eight three-pointers in the game and was again named Tournament MVP. Ndubizu also contributed with 17 points, six rebounds, three assists and one steal and was named to the All-Tournament Team. Kaplan had nine points, while Onyiriuka added eight points and seven rebounds.

UR returns to action on Saturday, when it takes on Carnegie Mellon University in the Palestra at 2 p.m. Before the game, the ‘Jackets will be honored with the Sam Schoenfeld Sportsmanship Award. Schoenfeld was a founder of the College Basketball Officials Association and was known for his strong character and integrity. UR was selected as the Western New York winner because of their exemplification of these characteristics among the players and coaches. The award will be presented on behalf of the CBOA by Robert Huber.

Hilfinger is a member of the class of 2010.

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