When the Yellowjackets embarked on their final road trip of the regular season this past weekend, they knew they needed at least one victory to keep their tournament hopes alive.
The team was dealt a 75-54 loss on Friday at the hands of the University of Chicago Maroons, leaving them in a highly unenviable position.
The Yellowjackets couldn’t overcome a difficult shooting night in their loss to Chicago, going just 30.4 percent from the field and 53.6 percent from the foul line.
Each team had three players in double figures. For the Maroons, it was John Kinsella, Michael Sustarsic and Jake Pancratz the game’s leading scorer who hit all five of his 3-point attempts as part of his 17 points.
For UR, sophomore forward Marcus Roberson scored 10 points to go with his eight rebounds, freshman forward Bill Serle added 14 points and senior swingman Mike Chmielowiec led the ‘Jackets with 16 points.
Freshman center Nate Novosel pulled down a career-high 14 rebounds during the game.
After the loss to Chicago, the ‘Jackets’ seemingly insurmountable task became clear: defeat the UAA’s top team in their house or start making plans for the offseason.
UR went to St. Louis on a three-game losing streak and hadn’t won there since 2001.On Jan. 23, Washington University in St. Louis came to Rochester and outscored the ‘Jackets, 73-42. The Yellowjackets were without Chmielowiec, who was sidelined with a foot-sprain.
Wash U has already clinched the University Athletic Association title and is ranked second in the country according to d3hoops.com with a 22-1 record, but that didn’t intimidate UR.
With their season on the line, the Yellowjackets pulled off an incredible, come-from-behind upset of their long-time rival, keeping their tournament hopes alive. It was Wash U’s first loss in the UAA all season.
Chmielowiec the UAA’s leading scorer took over the game in the second half, scoring 22 of his game-high 32 points.
Over a six-minute span, Chmielowiec scored 16-straight points for UR, turning a 51-43 deficit with just under 13 minutes to play into a 59-57 lead with seven minutes to play.
‘It was like playing NBA Jam,” senior guard Max Kaplan said, ‘[Chmielowiec] was just on fire.”
With one minute and 25 seconds remaining and UR leading 65-63, Kaplan hit a 3-pointer to push the ‘Jackets’ lead to five.
With 23 seconds remaining, senior guard Sean Wallis drew a foul and made both free throws to pull the Bears to within one point. He drew a charge in the backcourt to give his team the ball and a last chance for the win.
After two missed shots and two offensive rebounds by the Bears, junior forward Cameron Smith was fouled with four tenths of a second on the clock. Smith missed both shots from the charity stripe, and the ‘Jackets escaped with the win.
UR is currently fourth in the UAA with a 16-8 overall record and will play the third-place Carnegie Mellon University Tartans in their final contest of the season, this Saturday at home.
Saturday is Senior Day for the Yellowjackets and, regardless of the outcome, it should be the team’s last game at home.
Although nothing is guaranteed, Saturday’s winner will likely head to the tournament, while the loser will probably call it a season.
‘It really is do or die,” Kaplan said.
With such an important game on the line, the team appreciates its home court.
‘The support of the student body has been so great,” Chmielowiec said. ‘It would really mean a lot to have them come out for our last game.”
Starr is a member of the class of 2009.