UR Men’s Basketball (URBB) opened the season on Tuesday with a 104–94 overtime victory against Ithaca, continuing a tradition of strong play that included last year’s 17–8 squad.
It was a back-and-forth affair in which the host Bombers, now 1–1, led by as many as 12 late in the first half. Later, the Yellowjackets (2–0) would go on to build up their own double-digit lead early in the second half, which would continue to change multiple times throughout regulation.
With 45 seconds left in the half and UR trailing by 3, preseason senior guard and All-American Sam Borst-Smith tied things up with a three-point play. He then missed the front end of a one-and-one near the buzzer, and the game went into overtime.
In the extra period, the ‘Jackets built an enduring lead and outscored the Bombers 14–4 overall, preventing their opponents from making a field goal and forcing four turnovers. The game was fast-paced, with an estimated 85.7 possessions every 40 minutes.
It was a game marked by strong guard play, as Borst-Smith lead his team at 21 points to go with six assists and four steals. Fellow senior guard Mack Montague added 20 points and six rebounds, and sophomore guard Jacob Wittig had a double-double, with 10 points and 10 assists.
“We stayed mentally strong and did what needed to be done to win,” Borst-Smith said. “It doesn’t matter who scores how many points or who gets the most assists, because we all know our roles and know what we have to do to be successful.”
“I was very pleased with how we played as a team and really believed in each other,” Head Coach Luke Flockerzi said. “28 assists and six players in double figures are great signs of team basketball.”
One area to focus on, according to Borst-Smith, was hitting the offensive glass harder. The ‘Jackets only collected five offensive boards all game, equating to an ORB% (offensive rebounding percentage) of 12.8—a lackluster figure. As a result of this, the Jackets only scored 2 second-chance points.
In their next game on Friday, the ‘Jackets were able to rectify that problem, collecting 30 percent of available offensive rebounds against visiting Alfred (0-2). The result was a 71–62 victory in the opening round of the UR Chuck Resler Invitational.
The victory was Flockerzi’s 100th at UR, and he became the fourth coach to reach the milestone.
Individually, sophomore guards Wittig and Ryan Clamage posted double figures, with Clamage collecting five of the team’s 12 offensive boards. Borst-Smith filled the stat sheet with seven points, seven boards, three assists, two blocks, and three steals despite having a down shooting game.
Most of the team’s success came on the defensive end, which is harder to gauge with individual statistics, but the results showed in Alfred’s limited offensive performance.
In the tournament final on Saturday, the ‘Jackets excelled on both ends of the floor in a 77–50 victory over Washington & Lee (1–2). They built up an early double-digit lead and kept it.
UR was strong offensively, with a turnover percentage of 11.5.
On defense, Rochester limited the Generals to 73.2 points per 100 possessions, as the ‘Jackets forced them to turn over the ball 30 percent of the time.
Borst-Smith and Montague shined again, combining for 43 points and nine three-pointers. Borst-Smith also pulled down five boards and grabbed five steals on his way to being named the tournament MVP.
Senior forward Zack Ayers had a strong game down low, scoring 13 points on efficient five of seven shooting, while Knox recorded multiple blocks for the third straight game to start the season.
Summing up the team’s season so far using the Four Factors (developed by statistician Dean Oliver), the ‘Jackets have a strong edge in shooting and turnover percentage, also maintaining an advantage in free throws. They’ve also shown a positive trend in offensive rebounding.
If URBB continues to perform this way, they will continue to control games early in the season and will be a strong contender in their tough conference, once UAA play begins.
The Yellowjackets will host Hobart College Tuesday, Nov. 22, at 7 p.m.