The Yeshiva University Maccabees traveled to Willimantic on Sunday for an out-of-conference matchup against the Eastern Connecticut State Warriors. A 15-0 run by the Warriors towards the end of the first half put the Macs in a 32-22 hole. After much back-and-forth play to start the second half, the Macs went on a 17-4 run, capped off by two three-pointers from Simcha Halpert. Yeshiva would hit nearly all of their free throws down the stretch, and held on for a 83-75 victory.
Eastern Connecticut State started the game with beautiful ball movement on the offensive side, leading to layups and successful three-point makes, and a ¾ court press on the defensive side. Early on, the Macs were able to break the press with patient passing. Dani Katz knocked down two three-point baskets and a pair of free throws, giving him 8 of the Macs’ first 14 points. At 14:51, Simcha Halpert drilled a 3, putting him at 1,500 points for his YU career. Sim is the 5th player in Yeshiva history to hit that milestone.
The Macs continued playing their game, with ball reversals on nearly all possessions. This allowed them to get the rock inside to bigs Gabe Leifer and Caleb Milobsky for three layups, as the Macs led 22-17. However, Eastern Connecticut State was able to not only take the lead on an and-one and three-point basket by Thomas Close, but go on a 15-0 run over the next 4 ½ minutes, giving them a 32-22 advantage. During this run by the Warriors, the Macs were guilty of extremely sloppy play, as they committed five fouls and three turnovers.
Following this run, the Maccabees chipped away at the lead slowly but surely, with Halpert connecting on a three. After Jake Collagan nailed a trey, Yeshiva answered, with Leifer and Halpert each knocking down a three. A minute later, Simcha was called for a technical foul after arguing about a personal foul call; thee Warriors connected on 3 of 4 free throws. Yeshiva would then go on a 6-0 run, which culminated with a beautiful reverse layup by Ofek Reef. At the half, YU trailed by a score of 43-39, but seemed to have found their touch on offense.
Dani Katz had 11 points in the first period; Gabe Leifer had 10 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists. The leader for the Warriors in the first half was Jake Collagan, who had 19 points. Macs’ star Ryan Turell was held scoreless through 20 minutes.
The Yeshiva players had a little more fire in their eyes at the beginning of the second half, as the Macs were looking to reach 10 straight victories for only the second time in school history. After a three-point basket by the Warriors’ Close, Yeshiva went on a 14-7 run (including Ryan Turell’s first points of the game), taking a one-point lead with 14:12 remaining.
After Corey Muckle hit a three-pointer to put Eastern Connecticut State up 57-53, Turell started to show off, as he found a cutting Reef with an over-the-head no-look pass, and a minute later blocked Sharown Fowler inside the paint. Fowler was not happy with the ref’s no-call, and made his frustration known. In turn, the official called a technical foul on him (the third tech of the game and second on Eastern Connecticut State).
This was the turning point for YU, as they went on a huge run, and outscored Eastern Connecticut State 24-16 to close out the game. The “Big Three” of Ryan Turell, Gabe Leifer and Simcha Halpert were very clutch, with Ryan scoring 10 of these points, Simcha hitting huge back-to-back threes, and Gabe clutching 7 rebounds in the last 10 minutes of play.
Simcha Halpert led the Macs with 20 points on 6-12 shooting from beyond the arc, while Gabe Leifer produced a monster stat line with 14 points, a game-high 20 rebounds, and 5 steals. Dani Katz and Ofek Reef each scored 13 on a combined 8-12 shooting from the floor and 8-9 from the charity stripe. Ryan Turell overcame his scoreless first half to finish with 14 points. Leading the way for the Warriors was Jake Collagan, who had a game-high 23 points, while Corey Muckle struggled, shooting 4-18 from the floor. The Maccabees shot 47.5% from the field and 41.7% from distance, while Eastern Connecticut State was only able to shoot 39.2% from the field and 25% from beyond the arc.
What did we learn from today’s win?
The Macs need to work on defensive rebounding. Leifer pulled down 17, but the Warriors had 16 offensive boards. The Macs were somewhat lucky, as Eastern Connecticut State failed to convert on many of these opportunities, only scoring 10 second chance points. However, the Macs cannot expect to consistently defeat good teams if they don’t block out opponents who are crashing the boards.
Yeshiva is a dominant shooting team. Simcha Halpert was on fire from behind the arc today, raising his season 3-point shooting percentage to 44.9%. Yet, perhaps more importantly, Leifer shot 2-3 and Katz 2-2 from behind the arc. If the Macs’ bigs can consistently shoot like this from outside, it will both create space for drivers like Reef and post-up players like Turell, and allow them to put the ball on the floor and kick out for three.
This Macs team is great under pressure. YU hit their last six free throws (Turell had four, Reef two), and, while the Warriors applied an aggressive press, passed very well at the end of the game. Last year, the Macs had some jitters with time ticking down, and went 3-7 in contests decided by ten points or less; this year, they are 4-0 in such games.
With the win, Yeshiva improves their record to 10-1, and are now 5-1 in non-conference matchups. Eastern Connecticut State falls to 3-5 overall, and will take a two-week break before returning to the court. The Macs will have a chance to extend their winning streak to 11 on Tuesday, when they come back to the Max Stern Athletic Center for a primetime matchup against NJCU. As with all home games, MacsLive will broadcast that contest. See you then!