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Gameday Preview: #17 Men's Basketball vs. St. Joseph's College-Long Island-2/22/20

Just 105 days ago, the Yeshiva University Maccabees were walloped by the Occidental College Tigers on opening night. The Macs came back strong the next day, defeating Caltech, and left the West Coast with a .500 record and a full season ahead of them.

YU hasn’t lost since.

Even the most avid Yeshiva fans could not have predicted how historic this season would become, despite sky-high expectations coming in. A program which had never won 20 times in a season is on a 23-game winning streak, and showing no signs of slowing down as the Skyline Conference Championships approach. If the Macs want to secure a perfect 16-0 record in the conference, they’ll need to defeat a suddenly hot St. Joseph’s-Long Island team on Senior Night.

It will be the final regular season game for six Maccabees, as a class which has accomplished the unthinkable is nearing graduation. “We knew we were going to try to do something big,” said Dani Katz, referring to Simcha Halpert and his decision to come to YU and turn around the program. The two of them arrived in Washington Heights in fall of 2016, at the same time as Bar Alluf, Kevin Bokor, and Tyler Hod. When Sammy Mandel first stepped onto the court as a YU athlete in January of 2018, Yeshiva was 7-9, and were fighting for their playoff rights. Since then, the Macs have gone 53-11 overall, 43-6 against Skyline Conference opponents, visited the NCAA Tournament for the first time, and set a school record for wins⁠—three years in a row.

While this season has not gone as planned for the Golden Eagles of SJC-LI, their seniors would still like to go out with a bang in the final game of their careers. The main man for St. Joseph’s is Frank Basile, who leads the Skyline Conference in points. The senior dropped 30 on the Macs when these teams faced off earlier this season, but it took him 23 shots, and by the time he got there Yeshiva had blown the game open. The Golden Eagles also typically start: Doug Niblock, who is dangerous when left alone; Michael Darby, who has been hot as of late and can knock down threes with consistency; Matthew Lavin, a sophomore guard who shoots with confidence; and Jonah Caldwell, an athletic 6’5” big man who lives in the post. Freshman sniper Christian Pace burned the Macs in December, but has seen limited playing time recently.

Offensively, the Golden Eagles like to run ball screens and weak side cuts. They also have numerous set plays, most of which utilize Basile. St. Joseph’s usually goes with a man-to-man defense, although they also went with both a 1-2-1-1 press and halfcourt trap last time they played the Macs.

Keys to the Game:

1) Prevent middle drive

  • The Macs’ help-defense comes into play on baseline drives, but struggles against middle drive

  • St. Joseph’s likes to work the ball into the middle, and then either take shots close to the basket or work it back out for open three-pointers

  • It is therefore important for the Macs to wall off the middle from guards trying to use screens to drive to the basket, and force them further away from the hoop by hedging

2) Do not let Basile take over the game

  • The Golden Eagles’ primary source of offense, Frank Basile, is taking nearly half of his shots this season from outside the arc, and hitting them at a 36.5% clip

  • In their most recent win (against Farmingdale State), the senior went off, scoring 28 points while knocking down 5 of his 8 three-point attempts

  • St. Joseph’s will typically set a screen and allow Basille to go right, where he shoots best; the Macs should break up these screens and make him go left

  • Shutting down Basile is a simple path to victory, as the Golden Eagles’ offense is fully reliant on him putting up points

3) Contest Shots

  • The Golden Eagles have numerous players who are excellent at taking advantage of open looks, but struggle under duress

  • St. Joseph’s may not have a prolific offense, but if the Macs don’t contest shots, they will stick with Yeshiva

  • Doug Niblock, Matthew Lavin, and Basile could all go off tonight if the Macs leave them open on a consistent basis

The final game of this incredible regular season will tip off at 8:30 PM. Yehoshua Segal and Akiva Poppers will be on the call; our broadcast will start about 10 minutes early for a special Senior Night pregame show. If you can’t tune in, but would like to follow the action, click here for our in-game scoreboard. After the game, stay tuned for our recap and highlights!

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