On Nov. 21, the men’s basketball team tipped off its 2008 basketball season in front of a Palestra packed with 1,050 fans.

With the graduation last spring of stars Jon Onyiriuka, Uche Ndubizu and Robert Dominiak, among other key players from last season, there were many uncertainties as to what the future held.

But the ‘Jackets’ 5-1 record in the past two weeks has proven that they have not lost the high level of intensity that they possessed last year.

In its opening game a first-round matchup in the Chuck Resler Tournament UR scored a dominating 78-62 victory over University of Pittsburgh Bradford. Senior forward Mike Chmielowiec and sophomore guard Mike Labanowski stepped up to the plate with career-high performances.

Chmielowiec scored 25 points, sinking 10 of 18 field goals, three of five 3-pointers and two foul shots. Labanowski shot six of nine from the court, three of six from behind the arc and perfect from the foul line, accumulating a total of 17 points.

The ‘Jackets’ first performance appeared to be a good sign for the season. However, head coach Mike Neer noted the team’s inability to outrebound its opponents.

‘We aren’t as tall and strong as some of our opponents,” Neer said. ‘In the past, we had strong men, but now we need to focus on boxing out so that rebounding can be a five-man effort.”

The following day, the ‘Jackets matched up against Ithaca College in the championship game of the Chuck Resler Tournament and were handed their first and only loss of the season so far. Ithaca was able to capitalize on turnovers as well as an edge in the points-in-the-paint column.

UR initially jumped out to an eight-point lead with 6:05 of play left in the opening half. The tides began to turn when Ithaca guard Sean Burton hit a layup and foul shot to come within five points. The game slipped away from the ‘Jackets after Ithaca forward Brendan Rogers sunk three consecutive 3-pointers.

The ‘Jackets made up for the loss to Ithaca the following Tuesday in a strong outing against the Nazareth College Golden Flyers.

With 40 points in the paint, 19 points off of turnovers and 25 points from the bench, everything went right for UR as the Yellowjackets turned in one of their best performances of the opening weeks. The ‘Jackets dominated their opponents en route to a 91-74 victory.

It was a balanced team effort, with Labanowski and Chmielowiec leading UR with 10 and 11 points, respectively.

Neer credited UR’s victory to his team’s high field-goal percentage.

‘I am pleased with our effort,” Neer said. ‘We are shooting well from the inside and out.”

The ‘Jackets were 35 for 62 in their victory over the Flyers.

In their next two games, the ‘Jackets’ had to shake off the Thanksgiving turkey and compete in the Holiday Inn Airport Classic this past Saturday and Sunday. In the first game against Elmira College, UR showed up to play with a high level of intensity, leading Elmira for the entire 40 minutes. The ‘Jackets eventually won the game by a score of 76-58.

Sophomore forward Marcus Roberson had a career-high performance with 17 points. Once again, Chmielowiec came up big with 23 points, sinking four of six 3-pointers.

The following day, UR matched up against the Lycoming College Warriors in the second game of the HIA Classic. The ‘Jackets performed well in the first half, with 52 percent of their shots finding the hoop. As only one of two seniors on the team, Chmielowiec continued to rise to the occasion, logging 12 points and five rebounds before halftime.

UR finished the first half with a 33-21 lead, leading by as many as 16 at one point. The momentum completely shifted in the second half. The Warriors went from shooting 33.3 percent in the first half to 56 percent in the second. Their 3-point shooting also increased from 28.6 percent to 46.2 percent in the second half. The Warriors mounted a consistent attack with threes and points off of UR turnovers. Eventually, the ‘Jackets saw their once 46-30 lead diminish to a slim 52-51 edge.

With only 1:14 of play left, the ‘Jackets were holding on to a 58-57 lead. Freshman forward Nathan Novosel played a key role in closing the show, scoring a timely layup with only 1:03 left on the clock. Senior guard Max Kaplan sealed the deal with three foul shots, allowing the ‘Jackets to escape with a nail-biting 63-59 victory. Novosel turned in a promising performance, including eight points, four rebounds and a steal.

Chmielowiec was named the Most Valuable Player of the HIA Classic. He was joined on the All-Tournament team by Roberson.

Last night, UR continued its winning ways with a 70-68 victory over Rochester Institute of Technology. Roberson hit a layup with 2.4 seconds left in the game to secure the win for the ‘Jackets.

For his young team, Neer emphasized that in the games to come, there will at least always be one constant.

‘I’ll be disappointed if we don’t play with intensity,” Neer said. ‘How well we perform may depend on our opponent, but our level of intensity is something that we can control. We may not be as experienced and strong, but we’ll have just as much intensity.”

Nathaniel is a member of the class of 2011.

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