Men’s Basketball Wins Four Straight after Slow Start

Matthew Washuta

After starting the season 0-2 with losses to powerhouses Wake Forest and Syracuse, the Raiders men’s basketball team is on a furious tear with a stellar four-game winning streak. The team crushed rival Cornell 81-58, St. Francis (PA) 81-64, conference USA foe Tulane 98-86 and Binghamton 93-64. The team’s four-game winning streak is its first since the 2009-2010 season and the first such streak under third-year head coach Matt Langel. The team’s 4-2 record is its best start to the season since the 2007-2008 season. The Raiders have outshined opponents on the offensive end with phenomenal execution and strong playmaking from many different players.

Leading the way is redshirt sophomore guard Austin Tillotson who has facilitated the Raider offense providing key plays and scoring opportunities for the team. His performance against Binghamton on Sunday offered a glimpse at the offensive potential Tillotson has to offer, scoring a stellar 25 points, shooting a perfect nine for nine field goals including four for four from downtown. He also successfully converted all three of his three free throw attempts. Tillotson also leads the team with 32 assists thus far this season, proving his ability to facilitate many of the plays the team needs to succeed this season.

But the roster is loaded with many other potent weapons this season, including redshirt junior center Ethan Jacobs. Jacobs is among the most versatile centers in the game today, posting double-digit scoring games in every contest thus far this season. The 6-11 big man is building a reputation for his consistent three point shooting banking a whopping 62.1 percent of his three-point shot attempts, which is almost unheard of for a man his size. Jacobs is a major threat to opponents with his stellar shot and size giving the Raiders many more options on the offensive end.

Senior forward Murphy Burnatowski continues to put up strong numbers and currently leads the team in points scored this season. Burnatowski is also second on the team in rebounding and his work in the paint defensively has provided the team with the leadership and effective communication it needs to shut down opponents and limit opponents’ scoring opportunities. Burnatowksi also leads the team in steals and is tied for the lead for blocks proving his all-around playmaking abilities.

In addition, senior guard Pat Moore has continued his longstanding success behind the arc, banking a stellar 54.5 percent of his attempts from downtown, which provides the Raiders with another strong, consistent option on the offensive end. Junior guard Damon Sherman-Newsome is perhaps the most improved player on the team statistics-wise. His 12.3 points per game this season dwarfs his 6.1 points per game last season. Sherman-Newsome has become a more consistent, imposing presence on the offensive end of the ball and has also contributed defensively snatching a solid five steals thus far this season. His playmaking is making him perhaps one of the most potent sixth men the Patriot League will see this season.

Junior guard Luke Roh has been the most complete defensive player for the Raiders this season grabbing a team high 27 defensive boards, as well as seven steals, which is third best on the team. Roh has proven adept once again in facilitating the Raider offense and creating many strong scoring opportunities for the team. His 24 assists this season are second only to Tillotson, making the two a great duo on the offensive end in creating efficient scoring opportunities.

The team’s bench is a solid unit with players like senior guard Chad Johnson, junior forward Matt McMullen and senior forward Clayton Graham quickly coming off the bench and making strong offensive and defensive plays providing the team with more options and depth throughout the game. The team faces a big test against Georgetown on Saturday in Washington, D.C. and will look to keep its streak alive against one of the nation’s perennial college basketball programs. The Raiders will return home on Tuesday for a game against Atlantic 10 conference foe Fordham at 7 p.m.

The Raiders have been quietly successful on the national level this season. The team is currently number one in the country in three-point field goal percentage (51 percent) with Gonzaga a close second. The Raiders are also 13th in the country in team assists per game highlighting its effective pass distribution and playmaking abilities. Especially notable is the effective scoring distribution the team has to offer this season, as many different players are able to contribute on the offensive end. It’s safe to say this year’s team is looking to make some serious noise in the Patriot League this season. 

Contact Matthew Washuta at [email protected]