On Thursday night, the #24 YU Macs took on the Purchase College Panthers in a critical Skyline Conference matchup. Right from the get-go, Simcha Halpert caught fire from behind the three-point line, and the Macs’ captain would never look back. Halpert would end up nailing 7 threes and scoring 33 points, as Purchase couldn’t find an answer to the Yeshiva perimeter attack. Simcha’s best offensive night of the season guided the Macs to a 86-73 win, and extended their winning streak to 16.
“I’m just taking what the defense gives me,” Simcha told MacsLive color commentator Jacob Dauer after the game. “We’re trying to win no matter what—winning comes over everything.” Purchase’s game plan appeared to revolve around overhelping on defense and hoping that YU had a bad shooting night, but with Halpert on his game, the Panthers were burned on numerous occasions.
Both teams came out firing, and were completing crisp passes, getting good looks, and making their shots. The score was knotted up at ten after four minutes of play. Gabriel Leifer, in his first home game since breaking 1000 career points last week, got off to a hot start, hitting two early treys.
Many fans came into this game thinking that it could prove to be a close and gut-wrenching contest. These beliefs appeared to be confirmed early on, as whenever the Macs pulled ahead, Purchase responded. A Jorge Perdomo and-one halfway through the first cut the Macs lead down to 23-22.
Just a minute later, Tyler Hod came off the bench, seemingly to give Ofek Reef some rest. Little did anyone know how much of an impact Hod would have. The Frisch alum instantly displayed his skillset with two excellent passes, resulting in a couple of open shots—both of which the Macs hit—as Yeshiva took a 32-22 lead. Following a Purchase timeout, Tyler received a pass from Ryan Turell and immediately took a corner three. Just as the ball went through the hoop, Hod went to the ground and the referee called a foul. He completed the four-point play, and a clearly frustrated Purchase team burned another timeout. In fewer than 2 ½ minutes of playing time, the Yeshiva lead jumped from three to 14.
A Bar Alluf layup with 5 ½ minutes to go completed a 15-0 YU run. Purchase would finish the half by scoring 10 of the final 15 points, but the Macs still went into the locker room with a 44-33 lead.
The two teams would go back-and-forth in the first few minutes of the second period, as Yeshiva was able to maintain their advantage. With 17:30 on the clock, Simcha Halpert drained a triple; this would not be the last time the fans got to their feet for the sweet-shooting native of The Golden State. Around this time, Leifer would land awkwardly on his ankle, appearing to twist it; Gabe had to exit the game briefly, but was able to return (albeit in pain) just a few minutes later.
With Leifer back on the court, Ofek Reef and Simcha Halpert got out on a fast break, and the former found the latter for an open jumper. Sim followed this score up with a three-pointer, extending the Yeshiva lead to 61-44 with 12 minutes left in the game.
Simcha clearly was the hot hand, as he hit another three just a minute later. He followed that up by drilling yet another shot from behind the arc on the next YU possession. Following a staggering rejection from Ryan Turell, Purchase Coach Kyle Martin called timeout, staring at a 67-51 deficit with ten minutes remaining in the game. Unfortunately for the Panthers, this stop in the action had no effect on Halpert, whose next shot—from about 24 feet out—swished through the basket, sending the Max Stern Athletic Center into pandemonium.
With a few minutes to go, Yeshiva established a 27-point lead, as the Macs offense proved too much for Purchase’s zone to handle. The Panthers would close the game on an 18-4 run, but it was too little too late, as YU wound up winning 86-73. The final score does not really reflect how strong Yeshiva’s performance was, however; the Macs were clearly in control on both sides of the ball.
Halpert was the workhorse tonight for the Macs, as he scored 33 points on 7-14 shooting from behind the arc. This allowed Leifer and Turell to pick up six and seven assists, respectively. Leifer also had 16 rebounds and 14 points, while Turell, despite shooting poorly from the field, clutched nine boards (including three on the offensive end). After two disappointing games, Ofek Reef returned to form, as he contributed 14 points in the winning effort.
Besides for Jorge Perdomo, the Purchase offense really struggled to find their footing tonight. Much of that can be attributed to Ryan Turell, who absolutely shut down 2018-19 Skyline Conference First-Team member Elijah Lott. The other Yeshiva players also did an excellent job at forcing the Panthers’ players out of their comfort zones, as Purchase only shot 38% from the floor when the Macs had at least one starter in the game.
Not in My House
Tonight, the Macs put on a masterful performance on both sides of the ball. After completely failing to run their motion offense on Tuesday, Yeshiva executed it to a tee against Purchase. Beautiful cuts, purposeful screens, and fantastic passing were all on display, as the Macs slowly but surely broke down the Panthers’ defense. There is a good reason why the fans at the Max Stern Athletic Center are used to counting down the shot clock: YU is not afraid to use all 30 seconds in order to find the best possible look.
More impressive tonight than the Macs offense—if that’s even possible—was YU’s ability to keep Purchase uncomfortable, and protect the paint from middle drive. The Panthers like to penetrate the key and get short shot attempts, but the Macs avoided getting beat on the dribble and forced the Panthers players to either drive baseline or settle for a tough two. If these two teams play again in the Skyline Conference Championships—and the way things are shaping up, that’s a very likely scenario—and the Macs are able to run their motion properly and stop middle drive, the result will likely be similar to tonight’s.
There is not much time for the Macs to celebrate this huge victory, as YU returns to the court on Saturday night for another home matchup, this time against Manhattanville. “We’ve got to take every game one at a time,” Halpert said on the mentality in the locker room. “Win every game in front of us, and move on to the next one.” ‘The next one’ will tip off at 8:30 PM, and coverage of that game will be fully handled by MacsLive. In addition, be sure to stay tuned for highlights of tonight’s game, which will be posted later today!