WASHINGTON, D.C. – The University of Rochester shook off the rust of a 22-day layoff to rally for a 68-60 men's basketball victory at Catholic University of America on Wednesday afternoon.
It took the Yellowjackets 34 minutes to find their form. Once they did, they showed why they hold a ranking among the nation's Top 25 teams. Rochester improved to 10-1 overall with the University Athletic Association season opening in just three days – at the Palestra against Emory University. Catholic University is 4-8 overall.This was Rochester's first game since a December 11 contest at Ithaca College.
Rochester trailed by as many as nine points early (21-12 midway through the first half). Methodically, they plowed their way back. A 6-0 run late in the first half (a trey by Jacob Wittig, one free throw from Alexander Gamble, and a jumper in the key by Ryan Clamage) levelled the score at 32-32 with less than two minutes to play.
Catholic's Andre Mitchell took charge in the closing minutes. He scored five in a row as part of a 7-0 burst that put CUA ahead, 39-32. Clamage sank 2-2 at the line to leave Rochester five points adrift heading into the locker room.
Rochester had some challenges handling the ball against Catholic, especially in the second half as the hosts tried to build upon the lead. A mini-Yellowjacket rally started to turn the tide. Rochester was down eight, 47-39, when Patrick Benka sank a trey, then made a backdoor layup and Michael Mangan hit two at the line. It was 47-46.
Three free throws by Catholic plus a three-pointer from Collin Hartman put Catholic up 53-46. UR got up from the philosophical knockdown, started knocking down shots, and making stops defensively. With baskets from Clamage, Brendan O'Shea (his second trey), and Ryan Algier, UR forced a tie at 53-53 with 6:32 left. Riley Hayes made a layup for CUA with just over six minutes to play. It would prove to be the last basket of the game for Catholic until the final seconds of play.
"There was a lot of rust early (in our game)," said head coach Luke Flockerzi. "We weren't getting the stops we needed. In the second half, especially late, our defensive intensity picked up and we got those stops. We started making shots, too."
Rochester used an 11-0 run over four minutes to charge into a 64-57 lead. Clamage fought hard on the boards for an offensive rebound which he turned into two free throws. Andrew Lundstrom made a layup to tie it. Then with Catholic crossing midcourt trying to find a way to break the tie, Wittig poked the ball away and sped downcourt for a layup to give Rochester its first lead since it was 10-9 after his three-pointer six minutes into the game. Catholic turned the ball over twice on offensive fouls. Clamage sank a three-pointer from the left of the key with 1:36 left and Gamble somehow found his way into space in the lane for a layup and a 64-57 lead with 55 seconds left.
Statistically, Wittig led Rochester with 16 points and six assists. Clamage scored 15, grabbed eight rebounds, and handed out five assists. Benka scored eight points. O'Shea and Gamble scored six points. Gamble had seven boards. The win caps off a great four years in non-conference play for the Yellowjackets. Since freshman year, the Rochester Class of 2019 is 31-3 in its last 34 non-conference games heading into the UAA season.
Mitchell led Catholic with 15 points and Hayes had 14. The home team's offense took a hit when Hayes fouled out with 4:51 left. That foul sent Clamage to the line for a one-and-one and it started the 11-0 Rochester run.