Men’s basketball falls to Yellowjackets 72–60

The Carnegie Mellon men’s basketball team let their quick start go for naught against their host, the University of Rochester Yellowjackets, on Saturday, and Rochester prevailed 72–60 in the final regular season game for both teams. The win moves Rochester to 18–7 overall and 9–5 in the University Athletic Association (UAA).

Rochester relied on solid three-point shooting from its guards and surprisingly good free throw shooting from its big men to notch the victory and offset senior Tartan guard Brad Matta’s career-high 22 points.

A layup from Matta and a three-pointer from junior guard Geoff Kozak gave the Tartans an early 5–0 lead that blossomed to 13–3 after another Kozak layup with 15:27 remaining in the half.

The Yellowjackets narrowed the deficit some, but a free throw by first-year guard Jack Anderson at the 7:05 mark put the Tartans up 25–19. Rochester reeled off 13 straight points over the ensuing four minutes by controlling the tempo and moving the ball well to set up open shots, turning a six-point deficit into a seven-point lead.

The Tartans managed to snap Rochester’s scoring run with a jumper by Matta and went into halftime trailing the Yellowjackets 38–33.

“It was our best start of the season by far,” Matta said. “It was really nice to see that we all came ready to play. We didn’t quit and we were ready to finish our last game.”

Rochester began the second half with a run, scoring the first seven points to lead by double-digits at 45–33. After Rochester gained its biggest lead of the game at 57–40 with 11:26 remaining, the Tartans buckled down and scored six straight points to keep it close.

Over the final ten minutes of the game, Carnegie Mellon had a few opportunities to cut the Rochester lead into single-digits but Rochester always had an answer for the Tartans.

“They started to extend the lead and they got the upper hand in the first portion of the second half,” Matta said. “We didn’t do a good job of closing out on their three-point shooters. Give Rochester credit, they found ways to get open and hit shots.”

Matta led the team with 22 points and sophomore forward Ryan Einwag added 13 points and a team-high seven rebounds. Anderson added nine points and two steals in the loss.

“Something that really goes unnoticed is how difficult our conference is,” Matta said. “The bar is set for next year. We were a young team and these guys know they have the potential to win the conference. You can’t just go on a little run; it takes a full game to beat the Chicagos and the NYUs. I have all the confidence that these guys realize that and they’re going to put the work in, in the off-season.”

After seeing limited action as a first-year on last year’s senior-laden team, Einwag stepped in this season and led the Tartans in scoring and rebounding, averaging 15.5 points per game (ppg) and 6.0 rebounds per game.

Kozak, the lone returning starter from last year, upped his scoring average this season to 11.3 ppg and led the team with 3.4 assists per game. Matta averaged 10.1 ppg and was the team’s best free throw shooter at 79.6 percent.

“I really feel like we’ve made some great strides these past four years,” Matta said. “The players have dedicated a lot to it, but it’s really been [because of] the coaches and the coaching staff that this turnaround has happened. Our success has been a direct result of how much time and effort Coach Wingen, Coach Byrne, Coach Pastorkovich, and Coach Pietras have put in to this program. It doesn’t get noticed enough ... how dedicated Coach Wingen is.... The success we’re having is due to his dedication, his motivation and all his effort that he’s put in.”

The Tartans finish the regular season with a record of 12–12 overall and 5–9 in the UAA. The Tartans will find out today if they have earned a bid to the ECAC South Region Tournament.