Men’s Basketball clinches a playoff spot, cruising along with regular season play

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Photo courtesy of Laurel Simer.

Matthew Robinson, Staff Writer

The men’s basketball team recently clinched a playoff spot in the Empire 8 Tournament, capping off the team’s success from its 2019 campaign. Utica has been lights out winning the last three games and standing at 7-2. The team started its season with three strong victories including an 82-44 blowout victory against Elmira College.

Utica currently sits in third place in the Empire 8, only behind St John Fisher – who holds an undefeated record of 9-0 – and Nazareth College. Now, the team is attempting to close the season on a four-game winning streak while winning four of its last five games. 

This season, the Pioneers currently hold an average of 75.9 points per game which is above the opponent average of 62.1. In fact, Utica is currently above the Empire 8 average in a majority of offensive and defensive statistics this season.

“This year has been a year of uncertainty for sure,” Senior Kobe Lufkin said. “As far as staying prepared for the rest of the season, we plan on giving consistent focus on our game plan for each team, along with learning from our past mistakes and growing to become a better team every day.” 

After coming off a 70-58 win over Elmira, the team looks to close out the season, again against Elmira, but this time home at Harold T. Athletic Center. With the playoffs getting underway shortly, the team is feeling good about its play heading down the stretch. 

“We are feeling extremely confident about the rest of our regular season and going into the postseason as well,” Lufkin said. 

Winning an Empire 8 Championship would be a great accomplishment for a team that only has two close losses on the season to rivals St. John Fisher and Nazareth College. Utica finished with a record of 18-8 in the 2019 season, capped off with a loss against Fisher that season in the Empire 8 Tournament.

“Since the beginning of the season we’ve always felt we are talented enough to win an Empire 8 Championship,” Lufkin said. “The goals we have in place have been spoken about in length as a team.” 

Photo courtesy of Laurel Simer.

Setting goals as a team at the beginning of a season can be vital for a team’s success down the road. After a great season ended early last year against St. John Fisher in the playoffs, the team is hungry to keep the season going and hopefully reach the Empire 8 Championship.

Playoff Schedule

  • The first round of playoffs will be Tuesday, April 6 
  • No. 3 hosts No. 6
  • No.4 hosts No. 5 
  • Friday, April 9 – semifinals
  • No. 1 hosts winner of the No. 4 vs. No. 5 game 
  • No. 2 hosts winner of the No. 3 vs. No. 6 game 
  • Sunday, April 11– Championship (at Highest Remaining seed)
  • Semifinal winner 1 vs. Semifinal winner 2 (Highest seed hosts)

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