ST. LOUIS, MO – The University of Rochester men's basketball team kept its UAA title hopes alive with a key road victory over Washington University in St. Louis, winning 74-61 on Sunday afternoon at the Wash U Field House.
"Today was a must win game for us," said UR head coach Luke Flockerzi, "and our guys found a way to get it done."
Entering Sunday, the home Bears (18-4, 10-1 UAA), ranked #5 in NCAA Division III had a chance to clinch the conference title with a victory, but 4th-ranked Rochester (20-2, 9-2 UAA) thwarted that opportunity with a strong defensive effort, holding Wash U to its second lowest point total of the season.
UR was able to rebound after just its second loss of the season at Chicago on Friday night while the Bears snap a 12-game win streak with their first loss since December 17th.
It was a typical Sunday start, with both teams struggling to find their shooting touch in the early going. After ten minutes of play, the score was just 12-7 in favor of the Yellowjackets.
With the score tied 20-20 with four and a half minutes to go in the first half, Rochester found its shooting touch, scoring 11 of the next 13 points, closing the half on an 8-0 run to head to the break with a nine point lead, 31-22.
In the opening 20 minutes, Washington was held to just 25% shooting (8-32) and 20% (2-10) from long range compared to Rochester's 41% (11-27) and 25% (4-12) from the 3-point arc.
Rochester started fast in the second half, building a 14-point lead just over four minutes into the final period. Mack Montague hit a 3-pointer to kickstart UR's second half scoring which was followed up by six points inside, two each from Andrew Lundstrom, Tucker Knox and Montague.
The Bears would try and chip away at the Yellowjacket lead, trimming the deficit to six midway through the half, following 7-0 run. With 10:25 left, UR was up 45-39.
Montague then drained another 3-pointer, one of four on the day for the senior, giving him 223 for his career at Rochester.
The teams then traded buckets until the Yellowjackets scored four points on back-to-back possessions to regain a 12-point lead with a little over five minutes remaining.
Wash U again responded, scoring seven straight, capped by Jake Knupp's fifth 3-pointer of the game with 2:28 left, to pull the Bears within five, down 64-59. It was the closest they were since they trailed by four late in the first half.
UR held off the charge though, making its free throws down the stretch and clamping down on defense to earn the win. Sam Borst-Smith made two free throws with 1:23 on the clock after grabbing a big offensive rebound, which was followed with a WU turnover at the other end. Montague then made a nice driving layup to pull UR up by nine with under a minute to play. The Yellowjackets then forced a missed 3-pointer and Zack Ayers pulled down the rebound and drained two more free throws to get the lead out of reach.
Montague ended up leading all scorers with 20 points, adding five rebounds and 4 three's. Ayers had 13 points in 14 minutes, playing most of the game in foul trouble while Ryan Clamage provided 13 points and six rebounds off the bench. Lundstrom also had a solid game for the Yellowjackets, scoring 10 points and grabbing 11 rebounds for his first career double-double.
Rochester as a team shot 40% (26-65) from the floor, compared to 35% (23-66) for the Bears. The Yellowjackets outrebounded Wash U 46-39 and were strong from the charity stripe, sinking 15-17 free throws.
The Bears were paced by Knupp's 17 points off the bench, including five triples. Andrew Sanders added 11 and Michael Bregman had 10 points while Matt Highsmith chipped in nine points off the bench.
With three games remaining in the season, Rochester sits just one game back of Wash U in the conference standings. UR plays host to Carnegie Mellon and Case Western Reserve next weekend while the Bears travel to NYU and Brandeis next week. The final UAA weekend features UR traveling to Emory while Washington faces off with Chicago.