After clutch, down the stretch shooting led the Yeshiva University Maccabees to another win against United States Merchant Marine Academy on Wednesday, the Macs return home to the Max Stern Athletic Center on Saturday night to battle with the University of Saint Joseph Blue Jays. After a sluggish offensive 1st half against USMMA, the Macs closed out the contest by outscoring the Mariners by 19 points in the 2nd half to improve their record to 4-0.
The Maccabees look to stay undefeated, and extend their overall winning streak to a staggering 34 games. However, the University of Saint Joseph Blue Jays would be more than happy to play spoiler. This will be the Blue Jays first game of their season, but by just looking at last year’s campaign, this squad will be no pushover. A proper breakdown of this unit must start with the brains behind their play, and that is credited to the man who put together this program in just two years, the great Coach Jim Calhoun. Calhoun most notably coached the Uconn Huskies for 36 years, winning the NCAA Division I crown three times over that span. To put that into context, he is one of just four head coaches to ever achieve that, being joined by the legendary John Wooden, Adolph Rupp, and Coach Krzyzewski. Last season, the Blue Jays posted an impressive 26-3 overall record, winning the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, before bowing out of the NCAA Division III tournament with a loss to Hobart in the first round. Despite this, they still finished in the D3hoops Top 25. Before that loss, Saint Joseph had won 25 consecutive games, highlighted by their explosive offense. The scoring is led by returning junior guard Delshawn Jackson Jr., who won the GNAC Rookie of The Year honors last season, averaging 21.5 points. Jaecee Martin, another returning junior guard, is their quarterback on the court, averaging 7.5 assists last season. The Blue Jays play fast-paced transition basketball, with almost 1/3rd of their points scored last season coming on the break. They also crash the glass hard; this team is undoubtedly built similarly to Calhoun’s UConn teams.
Saturday night will be the first time Saint Joseph faces off against the Macs in their 3-year history. The Blue Jays have played a couple of Skyline Conference teams, as they defeated both USMMA in 2018, and Old Westbury in 2019.
Here are the Keys To The Game:
Feed The Beast
The Maccabees have struggled to get their footing early on in back to back games, with poor first halves against Rochester and USMMA. This can be attributed to a potential issue: not enough early touches for Gabe Leifer in the post. At Rochester in the 1st half, Leifer touched the rock just 4 times in the post, and only 5 times in the 1st half of the next game against USMMA. In the motion offense, Yeshiva wants to play inside out, and use the post as a distribution center. Getting the ball to Leifer down low early allows him to either pass out of help comes or score 1 on 1, which is the fuel to the Macs’ offensive engine.
Get Back On Defense
Coach Calhoun implemented a foundation of pace in the style of play of the Blue Jays. They take pride in their hustle and aggressiveness, specifically in their transition game. The Blue Jays like to push the ball in transition as fast as they possibly can. The Macs will need to deal with this, and try to slow the game down.
Stop The Star
The Macs will clash against one of the better offensive teams they’ll meet all year long in Division III. The Blue Jays averaged almost 90 points per game last season, and that is in thanks to their star guard, Delshawn Jackson Jr. who averaged 21.5 points per game last season to lead the team. Jackson Jr.’s offense is explosive, and if the Macs want to slow down the Blue Jays, they will have to start with its star.
The game is the first of a home-and-home series with the University of Saint Joseph Blue Jays. Tip-off for Saturday night’s matchup is scheduled for 8:30 PM at Max Stern Athletic Center. Catch all the action right here on Macslive.com