By Ami Eden
(JTA) — In a dose of spiritual medicine for a community hit by the coronavirus, Yeshiva University’s men’s basketball team continued its record-breaking season with a dominant second-round win in the NCAA Division III Tournament.
The Maccabees notched a 102-83 victory on Saturday night over Penn State Harrisburg for their 29th straight win behind a triple double from senior forward Gabe Leifer (10 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists) and a game-high 30 points from sophomore guard Ryan Turell. The Macs, who shot 65.1%, including 64.7% from 3-point range, have advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history.
The game took place in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins University’s 1,100-seat Goldfarb Gym. Due to coronavirus-related concerns in Maryland, spectators were not permitted to attend the game.
The team’s record run comes as Y.U. was forced to cancel all in-person classes at its two Manhattan campuses after one student tested positive for coronavirus. Many of Y.U.’s network of alumni, faculty and supporters live in New York-area Modern Orthodox communities that have been hit by quarantines and cancellations, as well as several positive tests for the coronavirus.
A hotel in suburban Baltimore canceled the team’s reservation over coronavirus concerns.
Y.U., which ran its record to 29-1 and is ranked No. 15 in the nation, won in the opening round of the tournament in a blowout over Worcester Polytechnic in a late Friday afternoon game that ended shortly before the start of the Jewish Sabbath. The team had minimal time to warm up for its Saturday night game, which started about two hours after Shabbat ended. Penn State Harrisburg was playing the day after its double-overtime upset over Johns Hopkins.
This year marks only the second time that the Y.U. men’s basketball team has qualified for the NCAA tournament. In 2018, the Maccabees lost in the opening round to York College.
Y.U.’s high-octane motion offense was on display in Baltimore, racking up 102 points in both games. Saturday’s victory sets up an intriguing third-round matchup against defensive powerhouse Randolph-Macon College, a school located in Ashland, Virginia, and ranked third in Division III.