Basketball finish with 6–8 UAA, 16–9 overall record
It was an emotional afternoon for Greg Gonzalez and Geoff Kozak as they finished out their regular-season careers against the University of Rochester Yellow Jackets in Skibo Gymnasium.
The team finished the season with a record of 6–8 in the University Athletic Association (UAA) and 16–9 overall. The two seniors put forth their best performances, including a few clutch plays, in the hopes of knocking off another UAA conference opponent and propelling their postseason hopes forward.
Unfortunately for the Tartans, the efforts weren’t quite enough to finish the 15th-ranked Yellow Jackets, who won 74–67 in the game’s closing moments.
“It’s tough to end things like that,” said Gonzalez, who scored in double figures for the 19th time this season. “You always dream about ending your career with a victory. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t make enough plays down the stretch to bring it home.”
The home game for Carnegie Mellon was hard fought, to say the least. From the opening moments, the tone was set by the big men inside to be a tough, physical game. Tartans junior Terrance Bouldin-Johnson and Gonzalez did their best to bang inside with Rochester’s monster forwards, Uche Ndubizu and Jon Onyiriuka.
“That was my main thing coming out,” said Bouldin-Johnson, who played despite injuring a ligament in his thumb the night before. “I wasn’t worried about scoring as much as I was worried about being physical with their big guys. We had to let them know that they weren’t going to push us around like they did [at Rochester].”
The result was a close game throughout. The Yellow Jackets made significant runs in the second half, but the Tartans were always able to close the gap and tighten the score. In perhaps the defining moment of his day, Gonzalez hit a clutch three-pointer with just over three minutes left to tie the game at 65. However, the Tartans were unable to convert any of their open looks down the stretch, and Rochester finished with a 9–0 run. The final score indicated a seven-point victory for the Yellow Jackets.
“This was a game we could’ve had,” said Kozak. “There were just a few plays down the stretch we could point to that made the difference.”
Putting wins and losses aside, however, it is important to recognize the two graduating seniors. In the four years since they arrived, the Tartans have earned a UAA championship, a runner-up in the UAA, an NCAA tournament berth, and two ECAC tournament bids. In all likelihood, their third ECAC bid will come today.
“I was talking with coach about it, and he asked me what it was like not to play in the postseason,” Gonzalez said. Gonzalez, in his fifth year after a medical redshirt, was part of the team in 2003–2004 when it did not qualify for postseason play. “Quite frankly, I told him it sucks. It’s no good to sit at home in March and watch all the other teams compete for something significant.”
Luckily for Gonzalez and Kozak, they likely won’t have to feel that way. The Tartans find out their postseason fate later today, when seedings are announced for both the ECAC and NCAA tournaments. If Carnegie Mellon receives a spot, it will be four years and four postseason bids for the two Tartan seniors, including one UAA championship and a trip to the NCAA tournament two years ago.