Men’s basketball bested by St. John Fisher on Tuesday, set to play two games this weekend

(Photo: By Kayleigh Sturtevant, Senior Guard Justice Brantley pulling up a jumper.

Jasaun Huff, Contributing Writer

The men’s basketball team suffered its first Empire 8 loss of the season against St. John Fisher University on Tuesday, Feb. 7. The final score was 65-63.

Utica’s record is 18-3, 13-1 Empire 8. After the game, a few players spoke to The Tangerine about the tough loss and what they would have done differently. Freshman Dayion Thompson was optimistic about the rest of the Empire 8 Championship. 

“We take every loss as a lesson and use that as motivation and just work harder and be disciplined,” he said. 

Justice Brantely led the Pioneers with 22 points and nine rebounds. Thompson was the second leading scorer with 13 points and the only Pioneer with a double. Thomas Morreale and Darius Hopkins also contributed to the score adding nine and eight points. 

St. John Fisher had a rough start in the beginning but turned it around. Fisher’s Daniel Cook scored a game-high 26 points. The Cardinals did not take their first lead of the game until 1:40 left in the game after trailing by 10 points twice in the game. 

Utica came out hot with a 10-2 lead against the Cardinals in the first half with 3:30 of the game. The Pioneers kept a steady lead between three and seven points before opening its advantage to 10 with just under five minutes in the first half. The Cardinals went on a 12-3 run to cut its deficit to one going into halftime. 

The Pioneers continued their lead coming into the second half until they jumped out by 10 points again with under 14 to go, but Fisher put up a fight to make it a one point game with 4:47 left.

The Cardinals tied the game up on a free throw. Brantley came in clutch, cashing a three to bring the Pioneers back in the lead. Fisher responded with a three shot before a pair of free throws gave Fisher their first lead of the game at 61-59.

Morreale came in clutch again and nailed a contested five-footer to tie the game, before Fisher regained the lead at the free throw line with 48 seconds left. The Pioneers turned the ball over as the team quickly turned to fouls.

Fisher missed the front end of a one and one, which allowed Brantle to find Thompson in place to dish the ball down to Damien Call for the fast break layup to tie the game.

Fisher was sent to the line again with six seconds left to play. Ryan Gentile missed the second free throw which gave Utica a chance to win. 

The Pioneers were out of timeouts, which issued them a technical foul after calling one, allowing the Cardinals to head to the line for two free throws. Fisher again went 1-for-2 to claim a 65-63 lead. Catching the rebound from the backcourt sideline, Brantley received the pass, missing the contested game-winning three as Fisher turned their game around catching the victory. 

The Pioneers look to bounce back on the road this weekend when they play Alfred University at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 10 and Elmira College at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 11.