NYU men’s basketball marches toward madness

The Violets keep their tournament hopes alive with a four-game winning streak.


The NYU Men’s Basketball team keeps its winning streak alive, citing “shooting ability” as the reason. (Courtesy of NYU Athletics)

Pablo Ocariz, Staff Writer

NYU men’s basketball extended their winning streak to four this past weekend, going on the road to beat Emory University 88-82 and the University of Rochester 66-52. Guard Spencer Freedman averaged 23 points and 5.5 assists over the two games, propelling the Violets toward their much-needed wins.

Prior to its winning streak, NYU was in the midst of a three-game losing skid — and in danger of falling out of tournament contention. However, the Violets never flinched and were able to maintain their confidence. 

“We had a tournament mentality, that’s what was on the board,” combo guard Zay Freeney said. “We knew that if we won these games, and Brandeis on Friday, we would be in the tournament. We literally had a tournament bracket set up, and the game on Friday is the final.”

The road trip started off with a high-scoring win over Emory in Atlanta on Friday night. NYU was scorching hot from the 3-point line, shooting an incredible 17-34.

The Violets started the game off slow, going down 22-14 early in the first half after turning the ball over and missing 3-pointers too often. However, they stormed back, outscoring Emory 26-12 to end the second half, playing suffocating defense in this incredible stretch.

Even with their great defense, the Violets’ bread and butter this entire year has been their shooting. As an undersized team, they relied on it early on in the season, as they shot above 40% from deep in 10 of their first 11 games. But the percentages had regressed as UAA play began in January.

At no point this season did the team lose faith in their shooting, with Freeney stressing throughout the season how much he believed in this team’s shooting ability. This weekend, it paid off.

“That’s been our strength all year, our shooting ability,” said Freeney. “We weren’t always shooting the highest percentages, but we knew that our shots were going to fall eventually. Luckily they are falling at the right time.”

The game ended up being a close one, as the Violets were never quite able to pull away from the Eagles, but they left Atlanta with the win. Next came the University of Rochester.

The Violets lost by 17 at home the last time they played Rochester on Jan. 22, and they had lost 12 straight games since 2016 against the Yellowjackets. Yet this drought came to a halt on Sunday afternoon. NYU dominated the game from the very start, particularly on defense. Rochester struggled to get anything through the Violets, losing the first half by 15 points.

Rochester shot a lowly 29.5% from the field on the day, on top of turning the ball over a whopping 15 times. The Violets simply did not give the Yellowjackets any room to breathe.

“Our coaches gave us a great scouting report for them, we had a great gameplan,” said Freeney. “We held them to like 30% shooting — the defense was huge for us today.”

With these two wins, the Violets have managed to claw themselves out of the hole they were in just a couple of weeks ago. Before the recent winning streak, making the tournament seemed like a pipe dream that had already passed the team by.

Freeney said they saw this as just the start to the tournament, entering into a win-or-go-home mentality. Now they likely just need one more win to make it. 

If they win the last game of their pre-tournament tournament, they will most likely find themselves in the pool of 64. A win against Brandeis University on the Violets’ senior night on Friday would complete an improbable comeback story — and what a story it would be.

Contact Pablo Ocariz at [email protected].