Vassar Rallies For Come-From-Behind Victory

By Steven Merritt

POUGHKEEPSIE – Senior Jack Rothenberg’s old fashioned three-point play with 27 seconds left in regulation propelled the Vassar College Men’s Basketball team to a 69-65 come-from-behind victory over the Rochester Institute of Technology at the Athletics and Fitness Center on Saturday afternoon. The Brewers improved to 9-6 overall and 5-3 in Liberty League play while the Tigers fall to 7-7 overall and 3-4 in conference action.

The two teams traded buckets over the first six minutes as a layup from senior Ben Freed gave the Brewers a 15-13 advantage at the 14:01 mark. RIT responded with a 10-0 run, led by eight straight points from Matt Caggiano to take an eight point lead with 9:20 left in the first half. Keegan Ocorr’s bucket at 4:51 pushed the Tigers lead to a game-high 12 points at 32-20.

Senior Zev Katz’s three-pointer with just under two minutes left in the opening half cut the RIT lead to single digits but jumpers from Kevin Ryan and Andrew Fox gave the Tigers a 40-29 lead heading into the halftime intermission. Caggiano’s 13 points in the first half led RIT as he knocked down three three-pointers while Katz was in double figures at the half with 11 points and drillled three triples of his own.

After the Tigers lead was cut back down to single digits in the first two minutes of the second half, Fox rattled off six straight points for RIT to push the lead back to 12 at 45-33 at the 15:46 mark. The Brewers continued to battle back and forced the RIT lead back to six multiple times midway through the second half as senior Zach Johnson’s layup with 9:49 remaining got the Tigers lead to six for the final time.

Vassar trimmed the RIT lead down to three after a three-point play from senior Avni Mustafaj on a finish at the rim with seven minutes remaining in the half before Mark Osime drilled a three-pointer to slow the Brewers run. Fox’s free throw at the 3:38 mark got the Tigers lead back to five but Mustafaj knocked down a triple on the next possession to get the lead back to a one possesion contest.

With about two and a half minutes remaining, Caggiano hit two free throws to push the RIT lead up to 65-61 and it would end up being the final points of the contest for the Tigers.

Rothenberg drilled a three-pointer with two minutes remaining on a feed from Mustafaj to get the game within one point and then with 27 seconds remaining, Rothenberg was fouled and converted the layup for a three-point play and gave Vassar its first lead since the 14:01 mark of the first half.

Senior Ethan Ellis hit two free throws with 11 seconds left to make it a two possession game as Vassar completed the come-from-behind victory and earned its fifth Liberty League win of the season in a 69-65 contest.

Rothenberg finished the day with 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting from the field and added six rebounds and a game-high six assists. Mustafaj was the leading scorer for the Brewers as he finished with 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting while also having two assists and three steals. Katz was the third player in double figures for Vassar as he had 14 points off the bench and made four triples while Johnson supplied six points, eight rebounds, two assists and three steals

Caggiano was the leading scorer in the contest as he poured in a game-high 21 points on 8-for-15 shooting off the bench for RIT. Fox added 16 points and eight rebounds while Kevin Ryan scored in double figures with 11 points and grabbed five boards. Ocorr chipped in four assists, six rebounds and three steals for the Tigers.

The Brewers finished the game shooting 45.8-percent from the field and connected on eight three-pointers as the Tigers shot 47.3-percent on the game and made five triples.
Vassar returns to action next weekend at home against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on Friday evening at 7:30 p.m. while RIT will play host to St. Lawrence on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

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