For the UR men’s basketball team, the past three weekends have been a series of ups and downs. Following their first loss of the season to Emory University on Jan. 25, the ‘Jackets have been unable to sustain momentum and have since gone 1-1 in each of their last three conference weekends. UR’s most recent University Athletic Association trip this past weekend was not only a testament to the strength and resiliency of the conference, but also a perfect example of the ‘Jackets’ current inconsistency.

On Feb. 3, the University of Chicago Maroons came into the Palestra and upset the third-ranked Yellowjacket men’s basketball team, 74-65. On Friday night, however, when UR entered Chicago’s Ratner Athletics Center, the ‘Jackets were able to return the favor, scoring a 64-63 win that hinged on a game-winning layup from senior forward Uche Ndubizu with four seconds remaining.

For UR, the real difference in the two games was the accuracy of its perimeter shooting. At home against the Maroons, the ‘Jackets shot 38.9 percent from behind the arc, including just 25 percent in the second half. On Friday, UR hit almost 54 percent of their shots from 3-point range, including 62.5 percent after halftime. Senior guard Rob Dominiak was especially good, hitting four 3-pointers on 67 percent shooting from downtown.

UR set the tone less than 15 seconds into the game when senior center Jon Onyiriuka received a pass from senior guard Jeff Juron and dunked the ball. Three minutes later, the ‘Jackets were up 9-2 thanks to five points from Dominiak and a Juron layup.

The lead was short-lived, however. Strong shooting from Chicago’s senior forward Nate Hainje and junior guard Matt Corning helped the Maroons bounce back and go on a 22-6 run, giving them a 9-point advantage. With 3:27 left before halftime, the home team gained an 11-point lead – their largest of the night – forcing UR head coach Mike Neer to call a timeout.

The ‘Jackets came out of the huddle with renewed energy and scored the final seven points of the half. The surge left Chicago with a slim 28-24 advantage going into the break.

In the second half, UR tied up the game within the first minute of play, thanks to a jumper from junior guard Mike Chmielowiec and a layup from Ndubizu. Chicago quickly regained the lead, however, and held onto a small advantage until the 10:53 mark, when Dominiak sank back-to-back 3-pointers that tied the game up at 47. From that point on, the two teams traded leads, neither one of them going up by more than four points.

With 1:29 left in the game, a shot from behind the arc by Chmielowiec gave the ‘Jackets a 62-58 lead. On the ensuing possession, the Maroons cut UR’s lead down to two, thanks to two free throws by Corning. With 11 seconds left, Hainje was fouled while he was driving to the basket for a layup. The shot fell through and counted, giving Chicago an opportunity to cash in on a 3-point play that would give them the lead. Hainje hit the free throw, and the Maroons grabbed a 1-point advantage.

With 11 seconds on the clock, Juron had the ball and dribbled down the court, where he found Ndubizu, who was able to connect on the layup and give UR a 1-point lead. Chicago had an opportunity to win the game on its final possession, but Hainje’s buzzer-beating shot came up short, allowing for the ‘Jackets to escape victorious.

Ndubizu and Dominiak each finished with 14 points. Chmielowiec also had 14, all of which came in the second half. Juron turned in a strong performance, as well, dishing out seven assists while contributing seven points.

On Sunday, the ‘Jackets traveled to St. Louis to take on the Washington University in St. Louis Golden Bears.

UR jumped out to a 12-point lead in the first half, but got into foul trouble quickly after halftime and was unable to sustain offensive pressure, allowing the Bears, led by senior center Troy Ruths and sophomore guard Aaron Thompson, to come away with a 54-53 win.

The ‘Jackets were dominant in the first 20 minutes of play. UR rattled off 12 consecutive points during a four-minute stretch midway through the half, giving them a 22-10 advantage. Chmielowiec and Ndubizu – who each had nine points before the break – were key components to the Yellowjackets’ offensive surge. Senior center Dan Milbrand also contributed, cashing in back-to-back layups in the 11th minute, which put UR up by 12.

Even with Dominiak and Onyiriuka combining for zero points and four turnovers in the first half, the ‘Jackets entered halftime with a 29-24 lead. In the opening minute of the second half, UR extended its lead to eight, thanks to a Juron 3-pointer. The Bears quickly answered, however, going on a 12-2 run thanks to the combined efforts of Ruths and Thompson.

With just over 12 minutes left to play, Dominiak hit a mid-range jumper, halting the Bears’ run and giving UR a 1-point advantage. From that point on, the lead bounced back and forth between the two teams.

With Milbrand and Onyiriuka both in foul trouble, the ‘Jackets were forced to do much of their work from the perimeter. Chmielowiec turned in one of best efforts of the season, scoring eight of UR’s final 10 points and finishing the game with 18. As a team, however, the ‘Jackets struggled to sink shots, shooting just 37.5 percent from the field in the second half.

With 10 seconds remaining, UR had possession and was down by one. This time, it was Chmielowiec who had the final shot, but the 3-point attempt rattled in and out, and Ruths came away with the rebound, sealing the victory for the Bears. The point totals were the lowest each team has had this season.

Dominiak finished the game with only two points, while Onyiriuka logged just three.

With the loss, the Yellowjackets drop into second place in the UAA standings and to 17-3 overall. Nationally, UR fell to No. 6, according to the most recent poll. This weekend, the ‘Jackets are on the road again, taking on the No. 10 Brandeis University Judges on Friday and the New York University Violets on Sunday.

Hilfinger is a member of the class of 2010.

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