ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Behind a career high 42 points from All-American guard John DiBartolomeo and some solid work on the boards, Rochester defeated Fitchburg State 91-86 in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday in the Palestra.
Rochester (22-4) was able to outrebound the Falcons 50-32, including an 18-6 advantage on the offensive glass to power past an upstart Fitchburg program making its first NCAA appearance. Those offensive rebounds led to 17 UR second-chance points.
“The offensive rebounds stat should have been reversed,” Rochester coach Luke Flockerzi said. “Fitchburg is a very good rebounding team, but we did a great job in the second half controlling the boards.”
Henneberry led the Falcons with a season high 33 points on 11-21 shooting while adding nine rebounds. Zach Valliere was strong inside for Fitchburg State, finishing with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
The teams came out of the gate firing, with each team shooting around 50% in the first half. Fitchburg was right at that number (17-34) while UR was 17-35 from the floor. Henneberry scored 20 points on 7-10 shooting, including two 3-pointers. DiBartolomeo paced the Yellowjackets with 17 and Rob Reid added 10 in the first half on 5 of 5 shooting. At the break, the teams were tied at 48.
The Falcons built a six-point lead five minutes into the second half after Henneberry connected on a 3-pointer with 15:51 to play.
“I knew this could possibly be my last game,” Henneberry said. “So whenever I got the ball, I wanted to attack the basket.”
The Yellowjackets rallied to tie the game four times in the next five minutes with the last coming at 10:46 after DiBartolomeo made his fourth and one of the night.
“I try to stay aggressive to make plays and get to the line, that helps me get and stay in a rhythm,” DiBartolomeo said.
UR then took the lead for good when Reid made a layup halfway through the second half. The Rochester lead was up to seven when junior Nate Vernon hit a 3-pointer with 5:11 to play.
Fitchburg battled back, getting within three points with just four seconds to play. UR was able to get the ball inbounds safely and DiBartolomeo nailed his next two free throws to seal the 91-86 win.
DiBartolomeo finished with 42 on 11-27 shooting, 3-5 from long range and 17-22 from the free throw line. He also added six rebounds and six assists. Vernon finished with 16 points and nine boards while Reid had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore Kent Coyne chipped in three points and 10 rebounds, six of which came on the offensive end.
For Fitchburg State, Henneberry finished 11-21 with two threes and was 9-10 from the free throw line for his 33 points. Mike Ingram-Rubin made five 3-pointers to finish with 16 points as well. As a team, the Falcons committed a season low four turnovers.