On Saturday night, the YU Macs returned to the friendly confines of the Max Stern Athletic Center for their first home game in more than five weeks, as the Merchant Marine Mariners made the trip to Washington Heights. The stands were packed as a large crowd came to root on both Gabe Leifer, who entered the game just 16 points away from 1000 in his collegiate career, and the Macs, who were on a 13 game winning streak. A 13-2 run in the opening minutes gave Yeshiva a lead which they would never relinquish. In the second period, the Macs were able to maintain and slowly build on their 21 point halftime lead, and when the final buzzer sounded, the scoreboard read Yeshiva 80, USMMA 56.
Gabe Leifer and Ryan Turell both found success in the post in the early going, as the Macs jumped out to a 13-4 lead 4 ½ minutes into the game. Simcha Halpert hit one of his traditional rainbow threes to extend the lead to 20-9 with 12 ½ minutes remaining in the half.
A 7-0 run by the Mariners was ended by a Bar Alluf layup, as YU did not allow USMMA to make things uncomfortable. This was followed up by a Turell layup, which gave the Macs a 26-16 lead with eight minutes remaining in the half.
Coach Steinmetz decided to put four point guards on the floor, a move which was mentioned as a way to take advantage of Turell’s length in the MacsLive Gameday Preview. This allowed the Macs to both spread the floor, as well as speed up the game against a Merchant Marine team which plays at one of the slowest paces in the country. This was partially responsible for USMMA’s getting into foul trouble early, as the Macs were in the bonus with six minutes left in the half.
A Leifer steal resulted in a slam dunk, bringing the Lawrence, NY native to 993 points in his career. Soon after, Leifer converted two free throws from the charity stripe, bringing him to within five points of 1000. More importantly, the Yeshiva lead was extended to 35-18 with four minutes remaining in the half.
The Mariners offense appeared to hit a wall just as the Macs offense was taking off. The Mariners were not only settling for poor looks on offense, but they also had no second chance points, as the Macs held them to just one offensive rebound in the first period. Yeshiva went into the locker room with a 44-23 lead.
Leifer started the second half with his second steal-and-dunk of the game. He followed that up by draining a three, giving him 1000 career points; the Max Stern Athletic Center erupted into applause, as the official announcement was made. Gabe clearly had the hot hand, as he drained another triple to give the Macs a 52-29 lead four minutes into the second half.
With YU in the driver’s seat, the Macs chose to slow down on offense. Even when playing at a tempo which the Mariners are extremely comfortable with, Yeshiva was able to increase their advantage. Turell converted a duo of incredible alley-oop dunks, one of which brought back memories of his Valley Torah days, when now-Macs teammate Max Leibowitz used to be on the assisting end. A Sim trey with 3 ½ minutes to go hit nothing but net, and the Macs lead was 28. YU would go on to win 80-56 in what was an extremely entertaining contest for both the fans and the Macs players.
“[Coach Steinmetz] texted us before Shabbos: ‘we’re chasing letters, not numbers,’” Leifer told MacsLive after the game. “We’re trying to get the W, not a certain number of points.” This message has certainly been accepted by the Macs players, who are executing tremendously well as a group; this team's chemistry is in another stratosphere.
Gabe led the way with 30 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals, while Turell contributed 23 points and 6 assists. It was essentially a two man show tonight, as only four Yeshiva players scored more than five points.
With the win, the Macs extend their winning streak to 14 games, and are now 7-0 in conference play. Merchant Marine falls to 7-10 overall and 3-5 against the Skyline Conference. Yeshiva plays three games next week, as they will travel to Sarah Lawrence on Tuesday night, and host Purchase and Manhattanville on Thursday and Saturday night, respectively. MacsLive will cover all of these games, and will broadcast the two home games. In addition, be sure to check out MacsLive.com tomorrow morning, when we will post highlights from a night filled with them!