By John Bernstein
Throughout the first half of Sunday’s game, the UR Men’s Basketball team was unable to put any sort of distance between themselves and their Case Western Reserve University opponents. Though the home team led the Spartans consistently over the course of the first 30 minutes, the visiting team time and again managed to muster a response to nearly every Yellowjacket push.
At halftime, the Yellowjackets led Case by a slim 41-37 margin.
The home team expected this kind of play from their University Athletic Association rivals — at the start of the day both teams sported identical 3-1 records to share first place atop the UAA with Emory University. At the end of the day, however, only one would keep pace with Emory (4-1), who, since losing to UR by 16 points on Jan. 8, has torn through the UAA with four straight wins.
Eyeing that league crown, the Yellowjackets unleashed a furious offensive swarm to open the second half. One free throw from John DiBartolomeo was all the fuel the home team needed to start setting the Spartans ablaze, pouring on the points in a 16-2 surge that only lost momentum with 11:58 remaining.
The Spartans (3-2) would come no closer than 14 the rest of the game, their hopes of retaining first place squashed in what ended an 86-72 UR victory.
DiBartolomeo, a sophomore guard, was a key component in both the run and game, contributing nine of the 16 points during the surge and posting a career high 30 on the day. He also dished out eight assists, most to either junior forward Nate Novosel or senior Mike Lebanowski, who finished with respective point totals of 16 and 14. DiBartalomeo was named the UAA Player of the Week for the third week in a row.
With victories over the UAA’s only other two teams with winning records in league play (Emory and now Case), UR looks to make its case for the league’s (and one of the nation’s) best by drowning two talented teams who’ve struggled against UAA opponents so far this season.
The yellow and blue travel across the state to take on New York University this Friday, where the Violets-who sport a measly 1-4 record-and sit dead last in the UAA — are nevertheless a competent team on the whole, boasting a 12-4 record overall this season.
Two days later, the Yellowjackets plan to visit a similar foe in Brandeis University, who, like NYU, drag a weak history in UAA competition (2-3) to go along with an otherwise respectable 12-3 mark.
Bernstein is a member of the class of 2014.