By Stephen Huber
The men’s basketball team began its season on the road this weekend at the Chuck Resler Tournament, which was hosted by the University of Rochester. The Lions then won their first conference game on the road, defeating Rutgers University-Camden, 72-67 on Nov. 21.
The Lions fell to Utica College on Friday, Nov. 24, 76-72, but bounced back on Saturday, Nov. 25, with an overtime win against Bard College, 84-82.
The tournament was a great way to showcase the Lions’ newfound chemistry, according to head coach Matt Goldsmith.
“Team chemistry this year is fantastic,” Goldsmith said. “Eric (Murdock Jr.) and Elias (Bermudez) have done a tremendous job of leading this group on and off the court and that includes bringing the team closer together as a whole.”
The season opener against Utica was a close game. The Lions fought back after being down early. Utica went on a 15-2 run to close out the first half. Utica took the 41-39 lead in the second half, but the Lions hit a few crucial three-pointers in the last minutes of the game that gave them a chance to come back. Murdock Jr. cut the deficit to three before the Lions got a defensive stop. Sophomore guard Randall Walko wasn’t able to tie up the game when he missed a shot from behind the arc.
Walko led the team with a career-high 22 points, shot 8-15 from the floor and recorded six rebounds. Murdock Jr. added 15 points and inched closer to the College’s all-time assists record, tallying five in the first game. Bermudez was efficient as well, scoring 10 points on 5-9 shooting.
In the consolation game against Bard College on Nov. 18, the Lions went back and forth, eventually forcing overtime.
After leading in the first half, the Lions faced a nine-point deficit with about four minutes left in the game. Sophomore Niall Carpenter shot for 29 points, seven of which came in the Lions 11-2 run at the end of regulation. Murdock Jr. hit a pair of free throws to tie it up, and sent the game to overtime.
Carpenter and Murdock Jr. took over the game in overtime, scoring 13 of the Lions’ 17 points. The team won, 84-82.
Senior guard Eric Murdock Jr. broke the all-time school record in assists, passing alumnus Sean Covington (’99). Murdock Jr. already held the record for most assists in a season with 180, which he set two years ago. He is also among the all-time scoring leaders at the College.
Goldsmith emphasized the importance of road games to this year’s success.
“Road wins are the key to having a successful season,” Goldsmith said. “Last year, we went undefeated at home during the regular season but struggled to win games on the road. With our schedule this year, we have to have a ‘road warrior’ mentality.”