After a disappointing 7-18 record last year, which included only two conference wins, the Lehman College men’s basketball team has come full circle. They beat Baruch College 68-60 on Saturday in the quarterfinals of the City University of New York (CUNY) Basketball Championships and now stand just two wins away from a berth in the NCAA D3 basketball tournament.
Lehman, the sixth seed in the tournament, demonstrated complete confidence on the court against third-seeded Baruch. The game was close throughout the first half, and at halftime, the two teams were tied at 26. However, after Baruch took a six point lead in the second half, Lehman tightened up their defense and eventually took control offensively. At one point, they led by 13, before Baruch made an attempt at a comeback.
After the game, Steven Schulman, Lehman’s head coach, pointed to a number of reasons why his team is so much better this year than it was last year. “One is new players,” he said. “Two is players that we’ve had have all improved.” He also said that, because of the additional wins they had this year, the team is more confident. “When you get a couple of wins like we did this year,” he said, “you get some confidence, and confidence goes a long way.”
On the other side of the court, Baruch head coach John Alesi was less positive. When describing how things slipped away from Baruch in the second half, he said, “I just think we had too many defensive breakdowns. We’d have two guys guarding one and [would be] leaving a guy wide open.” This led to Lehman getting some easy baskets and, Alesi said, “they just had too many of them.”
Three Lehman players scored in double figures: Kelvin Gil (14), Jonathan Greenfield (13) and Jerrome Jones (16).
Jones, who led the team in points this season, also had 13 rebounds. When asked about his success, he listed the following: “Being positive, playing with my teammates, not being selfish, passing the ball, feeding off my teammates, and [them] feeding off of me.” Schulman echoed his star sophomore’s comments, saying, “The thing we’re so proud [of] about Jerrome today is [that] he shared the ball.”
With the win, Lehman advances to the semi-final round of the tournament, where they will face 18-7 York College. Schulman knows that stopping York won’t be easy, especially their most prolific scorer, Michael Woods. “We just need to play a team game,” he said, “keeping pace with York’s offense.”
As for Baruch, the season may not be over just yet. Alesi hopes they will be offered a berth in the upcoming ECAC tournament. He feels they might have still been in the CUNY tournament, had it not been for injuries. “We’ve missed more games to injury than any other team in our league,” he said. However, he is still very proud of his team: “They’re great representatives of our school, on the court and off the court, and I really couldn’t be any more proud of them than I am.”
The Lehman-York semi-final game will take place at The City College of New York (CCNY) on Tuesday, February 25th at 8pm. CCNY will also host the championship game on Friday the 28th at 8:30pm.