The Macs’ second road trip of the year commenced in Maryland on Saturday night, as YU took on the Salisbury Sea Gulls. Having split their two games in Los Angeles, YU hoped for a clean sweep in the Old Line State. Salisbury would be no easy task, as they have made the tournament in four of the last five years. However, the Macs were able to hold a steady lead throughout the second half, and clutch defensive stands left Salisbury shaking their heads when the buzzer hit zero.
Salisbury, a fast and good shooting team, was held to 43.8% shooting, and were just 29.2% from behind the arc. “That’s what defense does, defense travels,” said Coach Steinmetz. “Very big road win for us against a perennial tournament team. I’m proud of the guys.”
After allowing the first basket of the contest, Yeshiva scored the next seven points, as a Simcha Halpert three and Ryan Turell layup brought the Macs’ lead to 7-2. The Sea Gulls bounced back, and kept the game close, before taking their second lead of the game, 15-14, with 12:51 left in the half. Having already put back a miss earlier in the game, Ofek Reef made his presence known, as he nailed a three to give Yeshiva the lead. Gabe Leifer scored twice in 30 seconds to extend the lead to 32-21 in favor of the Macs late in the first half. YU unraveled a little at the end of the half, as they let the Sea Gulls crawl back into the game. The Macs held a five-point advantage at the break, but Salisbury was gaining momentum.
Salisbury came out of the locker room strong, and took their third lead of the game, 49-48. However, clutch 3’s by Halpert and Leifer gave the Macs back the lead, as YU went up 56-49 with 12 ½ to go. The Macs would never relinquish this advantage. Throughout the rest of the game, the Macs held a slim lead. However, good defense created tough shots for Salisbury, and did not allow the Sea Gulls to put on much pressure. An open three-pointer by the Sea Gulls made the game a four-point affair with a minute left, but a huge find by Leifer to Turell under the hoop put the contest away. After a few free throws, the clock drained out, and the Macs left the Salisbury court with a 79-71 road victory.
Ryan Turell and Gabe Leifer were the top scorers for Yeshiva, with 21 and 19, respectively. The pleasant surprise was the performance of freshman Ofek Reef, who dropped 18 points off the bench. Ofek has been receiving consistent playing time this year, but his tremendous night might have Coach Steinmetz thinking about a bigger role in the future.
What Went Right for the Macs Tonight?
The three Keys to the Game were “Get Back on Defense”, “No Space Behind the Arc”, and “Play Our Game”. Salisbury, a team which loves to play the transition game, only scored six fast break points tonight. The Macs were able to get back on defense, and not allow the Sea Gull shooters to get easy open threes on the break. This was, by far, the most important key, and the Macs nailed it.
Salisbury used off-ball screens to spring their shooters loose. On numerous occasions, they did have plenty of space behind the arc. However, the Macs' defensive efforts got in the Sea Gull players’ minds, as they missed many of these attempts. Overall, the Macs did a solid job when it came to not giving Salisbury space, but they still have to work on this. Occidental was able to hit their open shots which came from off-ball screens, and if Salisbury was more accurate, this would have been a much tighter game.
The Macs certainly played their game. They didn’t get many open looks early in the shot clock, so the Macs played slowly and tried to break down the Salisbury defense. This often led to good looks inside. YU also used backdoor cuts on multiple occasions. The Macs even used the press, despite Salisbury’s athleticism. While it wasn’t extremely effective, Coach Steinmetz’s use of it demonstrates his trust in the team, which is always a good thing to see.
Today, Turell was most effective when driving to the basket and getting to the line. The same can be said about Leifer; while he hit one three-pointer, he did most of his damage in the paint. However, the Macs haven’t been able to get the three ball going yet this season. Halpert was 3-10 from three for the second time this year.
The Macs play tomorrow afternoon against Washington College in what will be the final game of this road trip. They hope to come back to Washington Heights with a 3-1 record and many happy fans. That game will be at 2:00 PM, and will be covered in a similar fashion to this one by MacsLive.