The University of Rochester men’s basketball team entered the 50th and final Wendy’s College Classic with a 4-2 record. They were looking to win the last tournament of the year before conference play. The team started off the tournament on Dec. 2 in a game against the College at Brockport on with a 65-59 victory. Junior guard Sam Borst-Smith led the way with 22 points, 18 of which came in the second half, while senior power forward Jared Seltzer and freshman Jacob Wittig each contributed double figures, 14 and 12 points, respectively.
This set the team up to play in the semifinals against their local rivals Rochester Institute of Technology. The Yellowjackets went into halftime with a seven-point lead and more than doubled it by the end of the game, winning 80-64. Senior Jared Seltzer led the team with 24 points and 14 rebounds, both career highs, to help propel the team over the Tigers.
Lastly, the Yellowjackets moved on to face Roberts Wesleyan in the championship of the Wendy’s College Classic. The team was outscored 43-38 in the first half. But, with a minute left and down two points, they the team managed to get the ball when Borst-Smith made some clutch shots down the stretch.
However, Roberts Wesleyan managed to hold on to a narrow 79-77 victory. The UR team veterans led the way in the loss, with Seltzer scoring a new career-high 26 points, in addition to Borst-Smith’s 19 points and junior guard Mack Montague’s season-high 16 points.
Although the team did not win the tournament, they are off to a tremendous start at 6-3 and have great chemistry. Head coach Luke Flockerzi said in an interview that the team is “a very hard-working, committed group that really gets along and plays for each other.” Seltzer and Borst-Smith also commented on their team’s success.
“I think we’ve become a lot closer,” Seltzer said. He also noted there is “more overall belief that we can do better than [in years past]. We have all the pieces to be a good team, and the coaches are putting that as a mindset for us to go out every game and expect to win.” Borst-Smith supported Seltzer’s sentiments. “Everybody just likes everybody,” he said. The team cohesion and belief in themselves and each other is manifested in their intense team play.
Although Borst-Smith (averaging 17 points and 4.1 assists per game while shooting 50.4 percent from the floor) and Seltzer (averaging 18 points and 8 rebounds while shooting 46.2 percent from deep) have provided veteran leadership so far, the Yellowjackets have also experienced consistent freshmen contributions.
Michael Mangan and Jacob Wittig are two impact players who average over 20 minutes per game. Regarding the freshmen, Flockerzi said, “Each one of them is talented and has a chance to really contribute not only during their four years but during this season.” Borst-Smith added, “Right away they’ve had a great solid impact; even the ones who don’t play produce everyday in practice and work hard. Honestly, we’re pretty lucky as upperclassmen to have these freshman come in and make an impact.”
As the season progresses, the team hopes to maintain its current success. As a message to the student body, Seltzer said, “The fans are always great in the Palestra and get us more motivated to do well.”
Similarly, Borst-Smith thrives off of the energy of the crowd, saying, “I’m pretty sure everyone else on the team does, so the more support the better, and we’re thankful for all we have already.”
The ‘Jackets plays their next game this Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Palestra against Union College.
Sehnert is a member of the class of 2019.