Before Winter Storm Mars hit New England and eastern New York on Monday, the Rensselaer men’s basketball traveled north to take on Liberty League rivals Clarkson University and St. Lawrence University. In Friday’s game against Clarkson, the Engineers built a 20-point lead early in the second half that the Golden Knights could not overcome despite shooting 59 percent from the field in the game’s final 20 minutes. Then, on Saturday against St. Lawrence, shots didn’t fall for the Engineers. They made just seven of 26 from three while the Saints converted on 11 of 20 three-point attempts and the Saints emerged with an 81-62 victory.
Freshman guard Tom Horvat led the Engineers to a 61-55 win over the Golden Knights of Clarkson with 21 points and three steals. In addition, senior forward Tyler Gendron scored 10 points and junior guard Jonathan Luster grabbed nine rebounds for RPI. Clarkson guard Felix Abongo led the Golden Knights attack with 17 points and 11 boards while forward Derek Hart and guard Conrad Zampier each had 10 points.
After Zampier scored a layup in the opening minute of play, Rensselaer went on a 14-1 run to blow the game open. Later in the half, Gendron dished out the ball to an open Horvat on the wing for his second three pointer of the half and a 22-9 Rensselaer advantage. Later, right before halftime, sophomore guard Asa Barnhill sped past his defender and laid the ball in to give the Engineers a 26-13 lead.
Early in the second half, the Engineers stepped up the pressure on the Golden Knights, scoring twice off of steals, and earned a 32-13 advantage. Later, freshman Marcus Giese pulled down one of his seven rebounds and tossed the ball ahead to senior guard Nate Kane. Kane dribbled up the floor and dished it to Luster for another Rensselaer three-pointer and a dominant 37-17 lead.
The Golden Knights came back though, amassing a 12-0 run midway through the second half to bring the Engineers lead to six with 7:22 left to play. Later, a three-pointer by Clarkson forward Drew Zlogar trimmed the RPI lead to 51-46. But the Engineers held on, getting a critical three from Luster and another jumper from Horvat to put the game out of reach.
In the second game of the weekend, St. Lawrence guard Kyle Edwards scored 27 points and guard Willie Zachary scored nine points, grabbed five rebounds, and tallied five assists. For the Engineers, Barnhill was the only player to reach double figures, scoring 11 points, while Horvat, Luster, and Kane each had nine. Giese pulled down a career-high 12 rebounds to go along with eight points.
St. Lawrence sprinted to a 20-6 lead after seven minutes of play that was capped off by a steal and score by Zachary. The Engineers on their part struggled to put points on the board in the first half, falling behind on just nine of 32 shooting during that span.
In the second half, RPI played better on offense, scoring 40 points and nearly doubling their shooting percentage. Horvat, the guard that has become the team’s offensive leader this season, shot four-of-five from the field in the final 20 minutes after a lackluster start to the game. St. Lawrence matched Rensselaer shot for shot, scoring 42 points in the second half and never allowing RPI to get back into the game. A steal by senior guard Will Lewis in the game’s final seconds and a triple by freshman forward Andreas Kontopidis brought the game to its final 81-62 count.
On Tuesday, the Engineers lost 53-63 to the Bard College Raptors. Next for RPI, which has a 10-11 record, is a pair of home games against Skidmore College and Union College this weekend at East Campus Arena.