KINGS POINT, N.Y. – The Yeshiva University men's basketball team grinded out a Skyline Conference victory over the United States Merchant Marine Academy, 75-72, at Liebertz Gymnasium on Sunday afternoon. The first-place Maccabees (17-5, 15-2 Skyline) extend their program-record winning streak to 16 games and reduce the magic number to clinch the conference's No. 1 seed to two.
The win did not come easy, as Yeshiva trailed by one, 70-69, with 3:11 remaining in regulation time. With the game tied at 72, with 1:05 to go, junior forward Gabriel Leifer nailed a free throw that put Yeshiva in the lead for good. Down by three, the Mariners (8-14, 6-12 Skyline) had one last chance to tie the game in the closing seconds, but Yeshiva's strong defense prevented USMMA from hitting the game-tying 3-point field goal right before the buzzer.
"Tough road game against a really challenging and talented team," Yeshiva University head coach Elliot Steinmetz said. "Proud of our guys for finding a way to win yet again."
As a team, Yeshiva shot 50.9 percent from the field and had a slight edge on the glass over the opposition, 31-29.
Leading the way for the Maccabees was freshman guard Ryan Turell, who produced a game-high 23 points, while grabbing seven rebounds and distributing five assists. Second-year forward Gabriel Leifer netted 20 points, dished out a game-high eight assists, brought down three rebounds, and forced two steals. Junior guard Simcha Halpert added 16 points with three boards.
Yeshiva got off to a slow start, falling behind 25-16 with 9:21 remaining in the opening half. The Maccabees countered with nine unanswered points, capped off by a 3-point field goal from Halpert to tie the game with 7:09 to play. With Yeshiva trailing by one in the closing minute of the period, Leifer successfully converted a layup to give the Macs a 36-35 advantage with 58 ticks on the clock. Both teams were held scoreless for the remainder of the half.
Less than two minutes into the second stanza, Turell forced a steal and found Leifer, who converted a layup, to give the Maccabees a 42-38 hold. However, freshman forward Blaine McDonough's 3-point field goal capped off a 6-0 run for USMMA, giving the home team a 44-42 lead. Turell answered with a successful shot from beyond the arc to put YU back up by one.
Later in the period, Turell fed the ball to senior forward Michael Hayon, who executed a layup to extend the Maccabees' lead to 61-57, with 8:59 to go in regulation time. Merchant Marine would not go down without a fight, as sophomore guard James Walsh capped off a 7-0 run for the home team by laying the ball up and in, while being fouled. He hit the free throw to complete the traditional three-point play and give the Mariners a 64-61 advantage with 6:57 left to play. Merchant Marine regained possession, less than a minute later, but junior forward Daniel Katz knocked the ball away. Halpert took advantage by draining a 3-pointer to tie the game.
With USMMA back up by one, Katz came up big once again. The third-year forward converted a layup and drew a foul at the same time. He added a successful shot from the charity stripe to allow the Maccabees to regain the lead, 69-67, with 4:16 left to play. Just over a minute later, freshman forward Jack Bucher drained a 3-point shot to give Merchant Marine a narrow one-point advantage. On Yeshiva's next possession, Halpert took a feed from Katz and converted a shot from 3-point range to put the Macs back up, 72-70.
After USMMA tied the game, Leifer was fouled with 1:05 left in regulation time. He missed the first free throw, but recovered and hit the second, to give Yeshiva a narrow 73-72 hold. After Yeshiva's defensive pressure forced the opposition to commit a turnover, the Blue and White drained some time off the clock. Leifer drew a foul with 27 seconds to go and was sent to the line. He missed the first but once again took advantage of the second opportunity from the charity stripe, to extend YU's lead to 74-72. After Yeshiva's defense prevented the home team from scoring, Halpert grabbed the rebound and found senior forward Tal Gweta, who was intentionally fouled with eight seconds to go. Gweta hit a free throw to give the Macs a 75-72 advantage.
Merchant Marine had one last chance to tie the game. Junior guard Connor Green attempted a 3-pointer with two seconds left, but the ball bounced off the rim and into the arms of David Washington for the offensive board. However, the Mariners could not get off a second shot in time and Yeshiva went on to earn the hard-fought Skyline road win, 75-72.
For the Maccabees, Hayon scored six points with four rebounds. Junior guard Tyler Hod netted four points with two boards, while Gweta produced six points, grabbed four rebounds, and distributed a pair of assists. Katz added three points with just as many helpers.
The Mariners had balanced scoring, with six players reaching double-figures. Washington produced a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Bucher netted a team-high 15 points, brought down four caroms, and distributed three assists.
Yeshiva will play the remaining three games of the regular season at the friendly confines of the Max Stern Athletic Center, beginning with a key Skyline contest against Purchase College on Tuesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:00 p.m.