After an impressive 14-0 start that earned the UR men’s basketball team the No. 1 ranking nationally, the ‘Jackets have hit a minor roadblock. The team has gone 3-5 in its last eight games, leaving it at a still tournament-worthy record of 17-5 overall and 6-5 in the University Athletic Association. Already thought to be the best conference in Division III basketball, the UAA is proving its might, as all five UR losses have come against UAA foes.

After winning the Chase tournament on Jan. 12, the ‘Jackets began a grueling run of 13 consecutive UAA contests to close out the regular season. Home wins against New York University and then No. 2-ranked Brandeis University started the season off well, but what seemed like a good omen turned sour quickly with a Friday-night 81-76 loss at Emory University on Jan. 25.

The first defeat of the season lost the ‘Jackets the nation’s top spot. The team’s current skid, combined with only three games remaining in the regular season, makes it unlikely it will again reach that pinnacle.

Leading up to this weekend, the team had gone 1-1 in each of its last three conference weekends. Rematches against national power Brandeis and perennial contender NYU did not go as planned, as the ‘Jackets were dealt consecutive losses, going 0-2 over the weekend for the first time all season.

The highly anticipated rematch with the Brandeis Judges (17-4, 7-3 UAA) delivered on its potential this past Friday night in Waltham, Mass. Senior guard Rob Dominiak tied the score at 59 with an exciting 3-point play with less than three minutes left in the game. Unfortunately for head coach Mike Neer and company, not even Dominiak, who scored a team-high 13 points, could save the game. Brandeis’s Kevin Olson scored his 20th point of the night, tilting the lead in the home team’s favor, where it would remain for the rest of the night. The game’s final score was 68-64 in favor of the Judges.

Dominiak was one of four UR players in double figures on Friday. Seniors guard Jeff Juron and forward Uche Ndubizu had 12 points each, and Ndubizu had 11 boards as well. The Yellowjackets also had some help off the bench from freshman guard Mike Labanowski, who added 10 points.

From Brandeis, the ‘Jackets traveled to New York City to take on the NYU Violets (15-7, 6-5 UAA). It took two overtimes, but the Violets managed to pull off the upset, outscoring UR 92-85. It was the ‘Jackets’ third overtime game this season and the sixth overtime game between UR and NYU in their 52-game series. The Yellowjackets, who led 27-19 at the midway point, built their lead to 15 with 8:49 remaining and still led by eight with only 4:02 to play, but the Violets would simply not go away.

After slowly chipping away at a Yellowjacket lead, NYU knotted the score at 59 with 11 seconds on the clock. NYU’s Zach Kuba and Richie Polan scored 20 points apiece, leading the way for their team.

UR led by six early in the first overtime, but, again, the Violets clawed their way back. NYU pulled within one point with 12 seconds remaining and intentionally fouled sophomore guard Brad Runco with 10 on the clock. Runco sunk both free throws, putting the ‘Jackets up by three.

The game seemed to be in UR’s hands, but Kuba took the ball up the court and, with 2.8 seconds to play, hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key, forcing a second overtime. The momentum was now on the side of the home team. The Violets jumped out to an early lead in the second OT and never looked back, cementing their exciting 92-85 win.

Dominiak again led UR in scoring with 21 points on the day. He was closely followed by senior center Jon Onyiriuka, who put up an impressive double double, tallying 15 points and 12 rebounds. Senior forward Dan Milbrand added 11 points and went a vital five for six from the line. Labanowski had a career-high 11 points, and Ndubizu added 10 for the ‘Jackets. The team’s juniors also made major contributions, with guard Mike Chmielowiec scoring nine and guard Max Kaplan assisting a career-high 13 baskets.

The ‘Jackets came into last week ranked sixth nationally, but dropped to No. 14 according to thanks to the two losses this weekend. It’s the first time this season the ‘Jackets have not been ranked in the top 10. In the UAA, the ‘Jackets are tied for fourth with NYU.

UR’s next games are this weekend at home, when it will take on Case Western Reserve on Friday at 8 p.m. and Emory on Sunday at noon.

Starr is a member ofthe class of 2009.

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