On Thursday night, the #24 Yeshiva University Maccabees will face off against Purchase College in what some consider to be the most important regular season home game YU will play all year. Purchase enters on a six-game winning streak, and they are 7-1 in the Skyline Conference. The Panthers play in the Northern Division, and this is the only time these two teams are scheduled to face each other this year; if the Macs lose, Purchase will control their own destiny when it comes to capturing the one seed in the Skyline Conference Championships.
YU played Purchase twice last season, and the results were extremely different. In December, the Macs won on the road by 24 points, in a game which they controlled from the start. The two teams also faced off at the Max Stern Athletic Center in late February; it was a heartbreaking game, which many of the YU faithful would rather forget. The Macs blew an eight-point lead with under three minutes to go, and Purchase’s win knocked Yeshiva out of the top spot in the conference. This ultimately led to the championship game being played in Farmingdale State instead of at YU, and the Macs would like to do anything possible to have a contest of such high importance held at a more familiar venue this season.
The Macs may be ranked, but one could argue that this only helps YU’s opponents. “It’s their Super Bowl” said Assistant Coach Eli Katz. This idea is one which the Macs’ coaching staff has zeroed in on recently, and they have made it clear that it is important not to overlook any games. Sarah Lawrence certainly played their hearts out on Tuesday night, and if the Macs didn’t receive the message beforehand, that heart-stopping experience should do it.
Purchase is an extremely athletic team, and while they don’t have many shooters, the Panthers’ ability to penetrate the paint and drive to the hoop more than makes up for it. Most of the time, they play with four guards and one center. Undoubtedly, their leader is Elijah Lott. The senior guard is averaging 22.6 points/game; he also leads Purchase is rebounds, steals, and assists. Fortunately for the Macs, Willie Britton is no longer a Panther; he put up 28 points the last time these teams met. However, some other Purchase players have developed this year, and have formed a nice supporting cast for the Panthers.
6’5” guard Maxx Miller averages 16.5 points/game, with nearly all of his shots coming from within 15 feet of the hoop. PG Elijah Harris contributes 10.2 points/game, almost all of which are a result of his driving to the rim. Jorge Perdomo is the one Purchase starter who prefers to shoot the ball from long range; more than half of his attempts have come from beyond the arc, and he is hitting 34.7% of his threes. 6’7” Andre Peguero is the big man on this team. While he takes under five shots a game, Purchase uses him for just about everything else. On the defensive end, he is a huge body who may have an affect on YU’s efficiency in the paint; on offense, he loves to set ball screens, and is a force on the boards.
One of the storylines going into tonight’s game is Simcha Halpert’s injury, which forced one of the Macs’ leaders to sit out the second half of last game. He appeared to be bothered by his lower back, and according to our sources, his injury is related to tightness in that area. Halpert is questionable for tonight, and according to both Coach Steinmetz and Coach Katz, he will be a game-time decision. The Macs can only pray that Sim is good-to-go, as they struggled to run their offense without him on the floor against Sarah Lawrence.
Keys to the Game:
1) Stop Middle Drive
With three talented players on the court who love to penetrate the paint, it is essential that the Macs stop middle drive
The YU guards will be tasked with defending players who are more athletic and quicker than them, and although this is a daunting task, they must at least avoid getting beat on one dribble
The Macs will probably try to key in on various flaws in Purchase’s game, and try to force the Panthers players into uncomfortable situations
YU’s help defense automatically comes into play when their opponent drives baseline, and if the Macs can force Purchase players away from the middle, their task defensively will become much easier
2) Get Back on Defense
Purchase is exceptional in the full court, and they love to get out on the fast break
Even off of made baskets, the Macs need to make sure not to celebrate
Especially on misses, it is important that the Macs get back on defense
Don’t be surprised if you see the Macs ‘jam’ the rebounder frequently, in an effort to eliminate an immediate outlet pass
3) Force Lott to Get Involved Defensively
Elijah Lott is an excellent player, but there is no doubt that he is much stronger when the ball is in his team’s possession
The Macs should attack Lott in an effort to both wear him out and exploit his defensive weaknesses
Even if this does not result in the Purchase star getting into foul trouble, Yeshiva’s motion offense could potentially confuse Lott and help a YU player get open
This is a game which you don’t want to miss. Tip-off will be at 8:00 PM, and fan favorites Yehoshua Segal and Jacob Dauer will be on the call. Click here to watch the MacsLive broadcast, which will begin a few minutes before the game starts. If you can’t watch the game, be sure to check out our in-game scoreboard for up-to-the-minute updates.