Coming off losses to local rivals Hobart and Nazareth, UR men’s basketball recovered strongly at the UR/Holiday Inn Airport Tournament, topping Clarkson University and the University of Mount Union to take the title.
On Saturday, Nov. 30 the ‘Jackets faced Clarkson in the semifinals, winning 71-67 in a tight contest that saw UR come back from an eight point deficit in the second half.
Leading the way was senior Nate Vernon, the tournament MVP, whose 17 points was a team-high.
Sophomore Kyle Reardon hit one of the game’s biggest shots, knocking down a three-pointer with just over two minutes left to play that gave the ‘Jackets a 66-65 lead, putting the pressure on Clarkson to try and come back.
In the final minute, Clarkson forced UR to seal the game from the free-throw line, fouling the ‘Jackets with the hopes they would miss their foul shots. Coach Luke Flockerzi’s squad would stay tough though, hitting five of six shots to seal the victory.
In the tournament’s other semifinal game, the University of Mount Union topped the Hartwick Hawks 95-81, setting up a meeting with the YellowJackets on Sunday, Dec. 1.
In the finals, Vernon again led the ‘Jackets scoring 27 points on 8-14 from the field in UR’s 87-80 victory.
After leading by ten points at halftime, UR struggled out of the gates in the second, allowing Mount Union to storm back and take the lead with 11 minutes remaining. The lead would be short lived, however, as the ‘Jackets immediately went on a 9-0 run to regain the lead, this time holding on for the remainder of the game.
Both teams were impressive from the foul line, but it was UR that capitalized on its free throw opportunities, hitting 31 of 33 compared to Mount Union’s 12 of 14.
The win was UR’s 16th consecutive victory in the tournament, and the title was their 21st in the 29 years.
The pair of victories improved the team’s record to 3-3 this season. While getting off to a good start is always important, the ‘Jackets will be looking to peak beginning next month, when UAA conference play begins. These intra-conference games will have major implications for a possible NCAA postseason bid, as the conference winner is guaranteed a spot in the national tournament time in March.
Shapiro is a member of the class of 2016.