(yumacs.com) The No. 4 Yeshiva University men’s basketball team overcame an eight-point deficit at the half to earn the sweep of its home-and-home series over University of Saint Joseph, this time by a score of 71-62 at the O’Connell Center, on Monday evening.
Yeshiva extends its winning streak to 35 games, the third longest in Division III men’s basketball history. The Maccabees also began the 2020-21 campaign with a 6-0 record.
The first half was a struggle for the Blue and White, shooting just 35.5% from the field and being outscored, 35-27. However, the defending Skyline Conference Champions came storming out of the gate in the second half, opening the period with an 11-2 run to take the lead. YU was able to sustain the strong start to the second stanza by outscoring the opposition, 44-27, in the final 20 minutes of the game to earn the come-from-behind victory.
The Macs improved to 53.6% shooting in the second half and shot 44.8% from the field overall.
Leading the way for the Maccabees was junior guard Ryan Turell, who led all players with 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Senior forward Gabriel Leifer once again tallied a double-double, netting 14 points and bringing down 11 rebounds. The Lawrence native also distributed six assists.
Despite the Maccabees struggling in the first half, they got off to a good start in the game as a jump shot by freshman guard Oren Betesh catapulted his team to a 21-14 advantage with 8:44 remaining in the period. The Blue Jays were able to shift momentum into their favor by scoring 12 unanswered points to jump out to a 26-21 advantage. YU was held scoreless for 5:31 during that stretch, until Leifer’s layup ended the slump with 3:13 remaining.
Just over a minute later, junior guard Ryan O’Neill converted a 3-point basket to give the Blue Jays a 31-25 hold. Sophomore guard Ofek Reef answered with a pair of free throws to pull the Macs to within four with 1:41 to go. Saint Joseph scored the final four points of the stanza to take its largest lead of the game, at 35-27, into the intermission.
Yeshiva turned it around at the beginning of the second half, scoring the first five points of the period to pull to within three. After junior guard Jaecee Martin ended the run with a layup to extend the home team’s cushion, senior guard Eitan Halpert answered with a 3-point field goal to shrink USJ’s advantage to 37-35, just 1:31 into the final period of regulation.
YU held the opposition to just two points in the opening 3:34 of the second half. Yeshiva’s offense was able to take advantage of the team’s strong defensive play by jumping out to a 38-37 lead.
After Saint Joseph went back in front, 40-38, Reef took a feed from Leifer and buried a shot from downtown to catapult the Blue and White back in front, 41-40, with 15:57 to go in regulation time. That capped off a 16-5 surge for Yeshiva.
After the Blue Jays went on a 5-2 run to regain the lead, the Maccabees countered with seven straight points to jump out to a 50-45 benefit. Turell concluded the run with a successful shot from downtown with 9:45 left to play.
USJ would not go away yet, as a layup from senior guard Jordan Powell capped off a 5-0 run of Saint Joseph’s own to tie the game at 50 points apiece.
Yeshiva responded by scoring the next four points to go up, 54-50. After Saint Joseph sliced the lead in half, Halpert once again converted a timely 3-point basket to increase YU’s hold to 57-52 with 5:52 remaining.
With the Macs up by four, 1:35 later, Turell connected on an important jump shot to extend his team’s lead to 61-55. This time, the hole would be too deep for the Blue Jays to dig out of. With 1:44 left to play, Leifer unofficially sealed the game by draining a shot from downtown to inflate Yeshiva’s cushion to 68-57. Reef’s free throw with 1:06 remaining gave the Blue and White its largest lead of the contest, at 69-57.
The Maccabees ended up sweeping the home-and-home series with the University of Saint Joseph, winning the second game between the two 2019-20 NCAA Tournament teams by a score of 71-62.
Yeshiva will battle another reigning NCAA Tournament team, Stevens Institute of Technology, next Monday evening. Tip-off at Canavan Arena is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.