Despite mixed record, men’s basketball seeks strong finish

Forward John Donnelly ’14 scores a point at last weekend’s close match against Hamilton College. The team hopes to make Liberty League playoffs in January, ending their season on a strong note. Photo: Katie de Heras/The Miscellany News
Forward John Donnelly ’14 scores a point at last weekend’s close match against Hamilton College. The team hopes to make Liberty League playoffs in January, ending their season on a strong note.Photo: Katie de Heras/The Miscellany News
Forward John Donnelly ’14 scores a point at last weekend’s close match against Hamilton College. The team hopes to make Liberty League playoffs in January, ending their season on a strong note.
Photo: Katie de Heras/The Miscellany News

Men’s basketball wrapped up the Fall 2012 semester of their season in competitive fashion. The team recently had a close match against Hamilton College at home despite losing 54-69. They also trounced Sarah Lawrence University on the road 78-19, with a 4-4 record before last night’s home match versus Mount St. Mary College.

Vassar’s successes this year have come from a combination of new and familiar sources, as sophomore Alex Snyder and junior John Donnelly have shouldered much of the scoring load with 12 points per game and 11.5 ppg respectively. Senior Co-captain Jon Herzog has been the most prolific floor-spacer, leading the team in 3-pointers made and attempted with 14 out of 43 and closely followed by junior Sam Rappaport at 14 out of 38 and who was 7 for 7 in scoring after Monday’s performance behind the arc against Sarah Lawrence University.

Going into this past off-season, Snyder made physical preparation a priority by slimming down and improving both strength and stamina in order to increase his court time. He wrote in an emailed statement, “I wanted to make sure that I would be able to play more minutes. I felt that if I was able to be on the floor longer I would be able to help the team out more.”

He also listed his performance last year as one of his reasons for this change: “I also wanted to be quicker defensively. I did not want to be a liability on defense this year like I feel I was last year.” His hard work has paid off, as his minutes have increased from 21.4 to 29.4 minutes per game, while his stats are up across the board. Additionally, team defense has helped opposing offenses to a shooting percentage of 37%, down from the past two years where opponents shot 45%.

Junior Andrew Adkins spoke on the team’s improved defense, declaring that it has achieved a much more solid backing. “[There is] a greater sense of urgency on the defensive end. We learned the hard way last year about what happens when the other team takes uncontested shots. We are making a better effort at challenging every attempt this year.” The team’s primary defensive scheme is a man-to-man defense anchored by its collection of bigs but initiated by pesky on-ball defense. Sophomore guard Curtis Smith has always been able to use his quickness to attack on offense and is doing a much better job applying his speed on the other side of the floor as well, while wily veteran Herzog ’13 leads the team in the unofficial stat of drawn fouls and is second on the team in combined blocks and steals (11 total) behind Snyder (with 13).

Competition will now intensify as the team begins to prepare for Liberty League play with upcoming matches against the Union College Dutchmen and Clarkson University, but the team has set high standards for itself, and is eager to keep on working and improving. Snyder spoke for the team when he reflected on the Hamilton game, and wrote that, “I feel we could have won, or at least put up a better fight than we did. I think we competed hard, but we could have played smarter.” The first half saw the Brewers down only four points at 30-26 despite the Hamilton Continentals shooting a blistering 8-11 from three point range for 24 of their 30 points. The Brewers stayed in the game with Donnelly recognizing his mismatch and repeatedly attacking off the dribble and getting into the paint for turnarounds and free-throws and Snyder thoroughly outclassing his counterparts on the block with both footwork and physicality.

In the second half the Brewers saw their field goal percentage drop from 41% to 36%, while the Hamilton Continentals took 15 free throws and shot 50% from the floor after only managing two and shot 37% in the first half. They were aided by coaching decisions by the Vassar staff, which briefly switched to a 2-3 zone (inadvisable against a good 3-points shooting team like Hamilton), and a called a timeout after there were no more available.

The team stayed focused, however, and bounced back with a dominant win against Sarah Lawrence despite playing without Co-captain Herzog, who dislocated his shoulder when he grappled for a rebound during Sunday’s practice. Snyder, while hoping for a quick recovery from the team’s leader in assists, isn’t too worried, and feels that this provides an opportunity for the underclassmen, specifically the sophomores, to step up their game. “I came here believing that the class of 2015 would be instrumental in turning around this program. We are a very dedicated, hard working group of guys that all have the same goals. We all want to win, and to bring a winner’s mentality to Vassar men’s basketball. We want to create a program that is feared by opponents, and respected by our fellow classmates.”

The team will need that mentality going into the upcoming slate of Liberty League matches in January. Co-captain Evan Carberry ’14 stated the goal for this team: “We are focused on making the Liberty League playoffs, which means finishing in the top four. This means that every league game is a big one. Once league play starts in January we need to be playing our best basketball.” They will have plenty of opportunities to practice—they return on New Year’s Day to start practicing again on Jan. 2, followed by six league games before the semester starts up. Snyder is looking forward to that challenging stretch, and stated, “I am confident that by the time conference play comes around Vassar College will be a name that other teams will hate to see on their schedule.” Their next match after break will take place on the first Tuesday of classes (Jan. 29) when they host the Bard Raptors at 8 p.m. in the Athletic and Fitness Center.

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