Fans showed up Tuesday night at the Max Stern Athletic Center in Washington Heights expecting a 41st straight win from the Yeshiva University Maccabees and plenty of “oohs” and “ahhs” from the team’s high-voltage motion offense. They got what they came for — it just took a little while. The team struggled out of the gate against College of Mount Saint Vincent, with sloppy passing, missed shots and defensive lapses. Nothing was falling for the dynamic duo of Ryan Turell and Gabriel Leifer.
Luckily for the Macs — and their #2 ranking and the longest current winning streak in men’s college basketball — Eitan Halpert was on fire from 3-point range. Even his misses were paying off: At the end of the first half, his last-second corner 3 was in and out, but Turell swooped in from the opposite side for an above-the-rim put-back that sent Y.U. to the locker room with a 38-35 lead — and momentum despite their first-half struggles.
In the second half, the Macs came out with dominating defense — and nothing could save the opposing Dolphins. Final score: 81-49 (that’s 43-14 in the second half).
“I loved our second half energy and defense,” Y.U. coach Elliot Steinmetz said. “In a game where we didn’t shoot the ball well, it was good to see our defense carry the day.”
Steinmetz has turned Y.U. basketball into a top-level Division III program, with a winning system and a roster packed with smart and talented players — and a real shot at winning a national championship. The team is attracting national attention.
But now the fans have to do their part. Sure, they love their Macs, and they get jazzed up over a big block, slam or 3-pointer. But overall, the crowd Tuesday night felt disorganized and lacked creativity. Where are the original chants — something beyond the predictable “Dee-fense”? Maybe, “Frum Jews can jump”? Or, “We can boogie, we can fight, we don’t ball on Friday night”? Or how about singing, after every Turell big play: “Ry-an, melekh yisrael, chai chai vekayam”?
A few signs would be nice. And maybe some nicknames: Jordan Armstrong, a grad student new to the team, who already played three seasons at Oberlin as an undergrad, should hereby be known as The Matrix (if you check out his photo and don’t get it, you’re definitely not ready for the red pill). Oh, and something, anything, with latkes for goodness’ sake.
In short: Watching this Macs team should feel more like big-time soccer (sans the fighting and racism) and less like a yeshiva high school game.
One person you can’t blame is Turell’s mom. She’s up out of her seat, trying to organize the fans in some chants throughout the game. But, come on, Y.U. fans. She needs some help out there.
A few additional notes from the game:
Pretty certain 6-foot-7 Turell became the first player in Y.U. history to bump his head on the side of the backboard, courtesy of a lob gone wrong. Don’t worry, he seemed fine — his kippah may have cushioned the blow.
It was actually Turell’s second blown alley-oop of the game, the other being a difficult back-to-the-basket put-in that rolled out just as the fans were about to explode.
Even on an off-shooting night (just five points and several missed open looks), Leifer was finding ways to control the game (12 rebounds, nine assists, four steals).
Speaking of Jews who can jump: Ofek Reef.
Adi Markovich has more hustle than Bernie Madoff.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JTA or its parent company, 70 Faces Media.