On Thursday night, December 30th, the Yeshiva Maccabees will host the #4 ranked team in the country, the Illinois Wesleyan Titans. The #1 ranked Macs enter Thursday's game with a perfect record through 14 games and an average scoring margin of nearly 30 points per game, good enough to rank second in all of Division Three. They have been absolutely dominant throughout the first half of the season. This game will be the first big test for them, as they’ll be hosting by far their best competition of the year in the Titans. Unlike most teams the Macs have seen so far, the Titans have the size and shooting ability to hang with Yeshiva. Illinois Wesleyan’s elite defense is allowing just 64 points per game this year and will look to shut down the best team in the nation and hand them their first loss in three seasons.
Keys to the game:
Three Point Battle:
The Macs have been one of the best shooting teams from long distance this season. They are fifth in the nation in three-point field goal percentage, shooting 41.6%. The long ball has been a huge part of the Macs’ success on offense this season. Illinois Wesleyan is a great defensive team, and more importantly, they guard the three ball really well. They are holding opponents to just 26% from downtown this year. The Titans will also likely play a man defense, something which the Macs haven’t seen a ton of this season. If the Macs can find a way to continue their hot shooting, the Titans are going to have problems.
In a big game like this, both squads will rely on their stars. This matchup features three preseason All-Americans in Ryan Turell and Gabe Leifer for Yeshiva and Matt Leritz for Illinois Wesleyan. Turell, the best player in the nation, will have his hands full with defensive stud Peter Lambesis likely checking him the whole game. Lambesis is the guy for the Titans on that side of the ball and with his size and lateral quickness, he should be able to give Turell problems. Leifer is going to have to continue to create for his teammates like he has his entire career if the Macs want to come out victorious. For the Titans, Senior forward Matthew Leritz is the go-to guy. At 6’7”, he’s averaging 16.3 points per game and pulling in 10.3 rebounds as well. The way these guys play will set the tone for the role players in this one.
Patience on the Offensive End:
The Macs have played very few close games this season, blowing out virtually everyone they have played so far. This one will not be a blowout by any means. The Titans hold teams to just 38.9% shooting from the field so it’s extremely important for the Macs to stay patient on offense and not force too much. The Macs have had a tendency to get sloppy and turn the ball over. They are averaging nearly 15 turnovers per game, which is poor enough to rank 219th in the country. That is something that needs to be cleaned up against better teams like Illinois Wesleyan.
How to Watch:
Tip off at the MSAC is at 8 pm. Macslive will broadcast the game live here.