CLEVELAND – The Case Western Reserve University men's basketball team rallied from as many as 19 points down in the second half and sent the game to overtime with three free throws in the final second, but it was the University of Rochester (N.Y.) who came out on top by a score of 82-78 during a Throwback Weekend thriller at Adelbert Gymnasium.
A costly loss drops the Spartans to 15-9 overall and 6-7 in the University Athletic Association. The Yellowjackets improve to 10-14, 6-7 UAA.
Junior guard Matt Clark (St. Louis, Mo./St. Louis University) scored a game and career-high 24 points, including a whopping 14 in the final 1:11 of regulation. Three of the points came via three clutch free throws which sent the game to overtime. Overall, Clark was a career-best 13-of-14 from the charity stripe.
Also for the Spartans, freshman forward Eric Black (Avon Lake, Ohio/Saint Ignatius) provided several highlight reel moments as part of a 19-point, 10-rebound double-double. Senior center Connor Edel (Akron, Ohio/Revere) just missed a double-double of his own with nine points and nine boards.
Rochester, who overcame a demoralizing finish to regulation, was paced by Mack Montague and Sam Borst-Smith with 21 and 15 points, respectively.
The Spartans got off to an unusually slow start in the game, hitting just two of their first 17 shots overall. That allowed Rochester to build an early 14-4 advantage as Jared Seltzer scored the final points of the stretch with a jumper at the 10:28 mark. Two and a half minutes before the half ended, the visitor lead reached 15 when Tyler Seidman hit a three-pointer to bump the score to 29-14. Down 32-18 at the break, CWRU's first-half scoring output was a season low.
In the second half, the Yellowjackets increased their lead to 19, at 37-18, following a Tyler Sankes layup with 17:31 on the clock. On the very next possession, the Spartans finally hit their first three-pointer when Edel connected from beyond the arc to open a 14-0 CWRU run. Less than five minutes later, the Spartans pulled to within 37-32 when Black dunked over a Rochester defender while being fouled at 12:56.
The Spartan comeback continued over the next four minutes, and with 8:14 left to play, Black hit a contested layup to tie the score at 41-41. Less than a minute later at 7:17, the Spartans moved in front for the first time since the game's opening minute as Clark hit two free throws to make the score 43-41.
After a Rochester bucket, CWRU led once again at 6:48 when Black completed a three-point play to make the score 46-43. The Yellowjackets then scored eight in a row and led 51-46 as Seidman hit a three-pointer with 5:29 remaining. Despite intense Spartan pressure over the final five minutes, the Yellowjackets held onto that lead until the final second. That last second was enough to set up a heroic play by Clark. Fouled in the act of shooting with 0.4 on the clock, the junior guard went to the line and hit three clutch free throws to tie the score at 64-64.
In the overtime period, the key moment came when Rochester's Kevin Sheehy nailed a three-pointer to put his team on top 73-69 with 2:00 on the clock. Despite a valiant effort, the Spartans were unable to recover from that point.
As part of CWRU's 10th Annual Throwback Weekend, the Spartans wore Case Institute of Technology Rough Riders uniforms. On Friday night, the team sported Western Reserve University Red Cats uniforms tonight.
The Spartans close out the season next Saturday, February 28 against rival Carnegie Mellon University (Pa.). Prior to tip-off at 5:00 p.m., the program will honor its five senior student-athletes who play in their final game at Horsburgh Gymnasium.