Kupferberg powers basketball before layoff

Bobby Wagner, Sports Editor

In their final game before a 28-day winter layoff, the D3Hoops.com 19th-ranked NYU men’s basketball team took care of John Jay College 81-67. The win, powered by a monster double-double from senior forward Evan Kupferberg, pushed the Violets’ record to a perfect 5-0 on the season. Kupferberg finished with 23 points and 15 rebounds on just 12 shots. John Jay fell to a woeful 0-6 on the campaign.

After trailing 15-14 early in the game, the team began to show its class and catch fire. They took the lead and never looked back, finishing the half with an eight point advantage over the Bloodhounds. Sophomore guard Ross Udine continued his excellent start to the season, racking up seven assists to go along with his 16 points. He shot just a meager 2-6 from the field, but he was a pest in the lane, drawing a lot of contact en route to shooting 10-12 from the free throw stripe. With the experience of a solid freshman season, Udine has become the reliable offensive option the Violets were missing on the perimeter with the loss of former Violet Hakeem Harris.

Senior forward Tony Bai, who has been asked to step into a larger role in the 2015 season, poured in a career-high 13 points, including seven straight in the first half. Bai shot 3-7 from the three point line in 20 minutes, and was an important X-factor for the squad in a game where they did not outplay their opponents by as much as they might have anticipated at the tip-off. Senior Patrick Burns, who has emerged since the end of last season as an energetic and athletic power forward, recorded 12 points and 13 boards for his first double-double of the year.

The high-scoring Violets started slow but finished efficiently on the offensive end, shooting 45.5 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from three. But they had to buckle down mentally to turn around a poor defensive effort and keep the game from becoming a shootout. Senior center Brad Lehens, who kicked in a couple points and a block on the night, said the Violets’ mental focus was paramount to their perseverance on the court.

“Our shots weren’t falling and our defense was rather porous, so we had to fight a lot harder that we’ve had to in the past to get the same result tonight,” Lehens said. “At the end, we just had to tighten up a bit, stay mentally intact, and keep our efforts high in order to come away with the win.”

Now that they avoided a trap game against a winless John Jay squad, the team will use the month of December to train and gear up for the second stretch of their season. They return to the court on Dec. 30 against local city opponent Yeshiva University. The team will have to hope that their season’s hot start won’t cool off after a long holiday break.

Email Bobby Wagner at [email protected].