The Ithaca College men’s basketball team returned to action Feb. 12 looking to avoid its first four-game losing skid of the season against the Houghton College Highlanders.
This was the second and final match-up between the two teams, with the Bombers taking the first contest by a score of 98–93 on Jan. 8 in Houghton, New York. Coming into the contest, the Bombers were holding onto a slim lead for fifth place over the Highlanders in the Empire 8 Conference.
The game began as less of a basketball contest and more of a see-saw competition as neither side could establish control. The Blue and Gold used an offense-heavy attack on lane penetration, including eight early points from sophomore guard Marc Rozynes-Chasin.
Houghton relied on its outside shooting, with two long deuces from senior center Tyler McQuaid. This match-up of styles led to a 10–10 stalemate 5 minutes into the opening stanza.
The Bombers appeared to establish some control with 10 minutes remaining in the first half. A well executed play by the squad’s only senior guard Sam Bevan put the team up by five, 18–13.
Houghton’s offense would ignite as well, as the Highlanders strung together a 8–0 run to take a 21–18 lead with seven minutes to play before the break.
As the first half wound to a close, the Bombers continued to drive to the basket, but couldn’t find a way to take control heading into the break. As the teams headed to the locker rooms, the score rested at 37–37 all.
Rozynes-Chasin led the way for the South Hill squad with 14 points. Senior guard Brandon Camacho was the high-point man for the Highlanders with 11.
As the second half began, it was clear that Houghton found a renewed energy during the intermission, constructing a 10–4 run and forcing the Bombers to use a full timeout with only three minutes of time elapsed in the second half. The Bombers trailed 47–41 at that point.
Fortunately, Rozynes-Chasin and freshman guard Peter Ezema would convert two free-throws apiece, sandwiched around a Camacho three ball, to pull the Blue and Gold to within five, 50–45.
With 14 minutes to play in the fourth quarter, the Bombers began a mini-comeback. Ezema started it with a steal on the defensive end and a layup on the other.
That was followed by a rebound and outlet pass from Ezema to Rozynes-Chasin, who rolled in a deuce, setting the deficit at only two. After Houghton’s Johnathan Stowe missed a layup, Rozynes-Chasin dropped in another glass-kisser to knot the game at 55.
As the clock rolled under 9:40 to play and the Bombers holding a slim 60–57 lead, Bevan wiggled his way out of a cluster of Houghton defenders and found Rozynes-Chasin for two points. Rozynes-Chasin would add a free-throw shortly after to increase the lead to 63–57, the Bombers largest advantage of the night.
As time wound down and the Bombers lead at 79–75, Bevan drove to the hoop, dropped in points 15 and 16 of the night, and coach Jim Mullins took a timeout to draw up the defense that would carry the Bombers the rest of the way.
With under a minute remaining, Houghton spent one of its timeouts, trailing 85–81. The Blue and Gold would close out the contest by nailing their foul shots, sealing the 93–88 win. Bevan said it was their in-game adjustments that made the difference.
“We were 1–8 from three in the first half.” Bevan said, “So we started penetrating and that opened up a few threes.”
Rozynes-Chasin said no matter the deficit, the squad always believes it has a chance to turn it around.
“We’re resilient, we can be down five or even 15,” Rozynes-Chasin said. “But we always feel like we can make a comeback.”
It is going to be a quick turnaround for the Bombers, as the squad will take on the Alfred University Saxons at 2 p.m. Feb. 13 in Ben Light Gymnasium in yet another Empire 8 bout, its eighth in a row.