Men’s basketball shines as women’s team looks to build steam

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Baruch College’s men’s and women’s basketball teams have experienced the highs and lows of competition this season. For the men, a positive start to this season has bred confidence in the young squad with post-season aspirations. As for the women, poor performance early on has mounted on pressure to turn the tide as wins become more and more precious. Through milestone achievements and exciting finishes, both teams look to build off of recent victories and build momentum into the CUNYAC portion of their schedules.

The men’s team swept through the WNY Knee & Orthopedic Surgery Tournament hosted in Buffalo, New York, for its second and third wins of the season. The team opened with a 74-48 thrashing of the Goucher College Gophers. The Bearcats struggled to slay the Gophers in the first half as they were outscored in the painted area 12 to eight. Up 18 to 10 with less than nine minutes remaining in the half, freshman George Smyth was assessed two fouls on consecutive plays to bring the Gophers within five points of the Bearcats.

Although Smyth has started every game thus far, coach John Alesi has often substituted him for fellow freshman Allen Villar who has thrived in limited action. Whether it was offensive rebounds or on the free-throw line, Villar helped maintain the Bearcats’ delicate lead. Chimaechi “Chima” Ekekeugbor poured in 15 points on six of eight shooting in the first half, with William Sixsmith following up on three of six three-pointers. Still, Baruch was only up 34-29.

The Bearcats acted like a well-oiled machine in the second half as they shot 59 percent from the field. Eleven players fueled a balanced rotation, attacking on defense for 20 points coming off of 10 turnovers. A breakaway layup by Isaac Doyin put the Bearcats ahead 52-32 with 14 minutes left.

Chima made history as he became the 22nd player to score 1,000 career points, then rested on the bench for the remainder of the game. The blowout nature of the match also gave the inexperienced bench much-needed playing time. As they cruised to victory over the Gophers, the Medaille College Mavericks provided a tougher test of the Bearcats’ resolve.

As the game progressed into the second half, Baruch sprinted ahead to a 48-37 lead, but the pesky Mavericks rallied with an 18-4 run. The combatants traded body-blows as the lead changed constantly. Down one with just over three minutes left, Chima rose up and drained a three-pointer to put Baruch ahead. A hectic three minutes filled with turnovers, missed jumpers and a solid defense ensued. Free throws by Doyin and Chima sealed the game at 66-64.

Chima tallied a double-double with 18 points, 14 rebounds and four assists, earning Most Valuable Player honors. Sixsmith was named to the All-Tournament team as he nailed four of nine shots from deep. They split their next two contests before taking care of York College in their CUNYAC opener. The men’s team had to make way for the women’s team in search of its first win of the season.

In the first four matches of the season, the Lady Bearcats struggled tremendously. The team lacked chemistry as sloppy play on the hardtop often put it behind early and often. Playing from behind often put pressure on the team and, despite numerous comeback efforts, the team started the season winless through four games.

Despite the bad play, one bright spot in the Lady Bearcat’s season came through Veronica Ganzi, scoring her 1,000th career point against St. Catherine. Still, the team was hungry to turn its season around while it still had time and headed into its first CUNYAC matchup against the York College Cardinals.

The team traveled to Jamaica, New York, in search of its first win of the season. The defense awakened early on, especially senior Jacqueline Kennedy who put together five steals and grabbed eight boards. By the game’s end, the team had coaxed 39 turnovers from the Cardinals, good for 39 points. On the other side of the ball, Kennedy was equally efficient with the center erupting for 28 points from her center position. Sophomore guard Daniela Arias was in on the party, finishing strong all around with 15 points, seven assists and steals and five boards. Playing with newfound attitude, the Lady Bearcats turned the tables on York, completing a blowout of their own, the scoreboard reading 74-45 in Baruch’s favor, their first win of the season.

Thus far into the season, the men’s and women’s teams have experienced both ends of the spectrum in terms of winning and losing. The men’s team is doing all the right things to position itself for a repeat at the championship, while the women’s team is working to change its luck. If the men’s team sustains its strong play it will remain well-placed. As for the Lady Bearcats, they must build off this first win and carry momentum into the coming games, especially as the brunt of their CUNYAC lineup inches closer.

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