After blowing a 15-point lead built in the first half, the Yellowjackets pulled together and made sure that the season opener on home court was a sweet one, squeaking out a 61-56 victory over the visiting Golden Flyers of Nazareth College. Jared Seltzer led Rochester with 12 points, while Nazareth forward Mitch Ford led all scorers with 21.
It was a topsy-turvy game for the Yellowjackets, who relied heavily on their bench for production (Rochester’s bench outscored their starters). They came out strong, blitzing the Golden Flyers’ initially weak man defense and forcing two early “calm down” timeouts. It started with Kevin Sheehey, who made up for his lack of height with blistering speed and a keen mind for making the right pass. He and forward Tyler Sankes played off of each other the whole night, bewildering defenders and leading the team on both sides of the floor. Meanwhile, the Yellowjackets were grabbing every rebound in sight, preventing the Golden Flyers’ forwards from making the second chance shots that they would later convert so efficiently.
With 8:48 left in the half, Nazareth called another timeout, this time following a UR jumper that put the Yellowjackets up 23-12. A few Nazareth mini-runs, fueled by super-sub Maurice Mills and burly forward Ford, kept the deficit at 11 when the first-half buzzer sounded.
The second half was a stranger tale. The play, physical in the first half, graduated to chippy in the second, culminating in a technical foul for Mills at one point for shoving Rochester forward Dylan Peretz. Mills and Ford, helped by a stifling trap defense and a consequently stagnant Rochester offense, helped Nazareth claw and fight their way to a 52-51 lead with under five minutes to go. A Rochester turnover was immediately followed by a lay-up from Nazareth guard Nick Nadeau, which put the Golden Flyers up 54-51. A few back-and-forth baskets punctuated by a nimble turnaround jumper from Ford put the score at 56-53 with just over a minute to go.
Seltzer made two free throws to close the gap to 1. As Nazareth brought the ball over the court, the clock dipped under one minute, and the student section began the customary “DE-FENSE” chant. Sam Borst-Smith must have heard, because the Rochester guard immediately swiped the ball from Nazareth guard Jack Mulcahy and drove to the hoop, laying it in to put Rochester up 57-56. On the next possession, Rochester forced another turnover and the game was left up to free throws, an area in which the Yellowjackets thrived during this game (16-18.)
At the final buzzer, Rochester was the 61-56 victor, 1-0, and is now preparing for a date with Gordon College this Friday, Nov. 21 at 6:00 PM in the Palestra.
A more poetic account of the game goes as follows:
On a frigid weekend matchup of thus;
Golden Flyers from ol’ Naz’rth and us;
A steal and a score in the final minute
Assured that the ‘Jackets would surely win it.
From the first tip it seemed the game was sealed;
By the second, Naz’rth’s defense had keeled
Strong play from the young guard Borst-Smith was key
If one is to get cred, ‘tis surely he.
Ten and one points on four of five, oh ho!
It was that boy who made the team a-go.
Seltzer chipped in twelve points as well, great Scott!
And he missed but one of his four nice shots.
The team now sits at a gleaming one’n’0.
All I can say is go, you ‘Jackets, go!
Bernstein is a member of the class of 2018.