SCHENECTADY — The last time Union College sophomore guard Mike Concannon played the Vassar College Brewers, he suffered through arguably the worst game of his collegiate career in a 60-55 loss in Poughkeepsie. No wonder he had quite a chip on his shoulder when his Dutchmen played Vassar in the opening round of the Liberty League playoffs.
Concannon, the leading scorer for the balanced Dutchmen at 12.9 points per game, poured in 26 points and grabbed nine rebounds to carry the Dutchmen to a 72-62 victory Tuesday at the Viniar Athletic Center. Union (12-6, 16-9), the fourth seed, advances to meet RPI in the semifinals in Troy Saturday at 2 p.m. Vassar, the fifth seed, closes the season at 11-15 overall.
“One of the great things about having so many good scorers and so much balance, is that it’s very hard to key on just one player defensively,” Union head coach Chris Murphy said. “But Mike really stepped up his game tonight, and it was just at the right time for us. He’s been playing great for us the last couple of games, and this is just a continuation of that. The last time we played Vassar, it was probably his worst game, but he’s been playing great since then. He got penetration and got to the line for us.”
“Coach wanted us to get to the line early and get some easy baskets,” Concannon said. “The more we drove to the basket, the more it opened things up for us outside. I did have a bad game against Vassar the last time we played them, and I couldn’t wait to play them again once I found out they were our opponent in the playoffs.”
The game was a battle between Vassar’s power game inside, with burly 6-foot-7 junior Zach Bromfeld (15 points, 10 rebounds) and 6-5 freshman Zach Johnson matching up against Union’s 6-8 junior center Rhona Eseyade and 6-5 Jackson Mannix.
“It was like a chess match,” Murphy said. “They do a great job of getting their big guys, Bromfeld and Johnson, in excellent position on the block, and they are hard to guard. But we had a good defensive plan, and we also made sure our guys played with heart. They stepped up when we needed them to. We got some outside shots to fall, we played excellent team defense, and we definitely got to the line.”
Union grabbed a 17-4 lead early in the first half, but the Brewers closed the gap to 31-30 at the intermission, thanks to 11 points from Bromfeld.
The Dutchmen built a 55-44 cushion when Concannon nailed a pair of free throws with 6:55 remaining, but Vassar climbed back within 64-60 on a 3-pointer by Jack Rothenberg.
Five points in the last four minutes by senior Kevin Jefferson, who was Union’s third double-digit scorer with 12 points, and a pair of blocked shots in the last 40 seconds by Eseyade, sealed the win for Union.
“Eseyade gets so many blocked shots for us,” Murphy said. “He doesn’t have a lot of big stats, but his timing is terrific. I would hate to be an opponent trying to get a shot off against him.”
Sophomore Brian Noone, who backed up Concannon with 14 points, said the key to the game was Union’s scouting report.
“We did a great job of sticking to the game plan,” Noone said. “Coach told us to get the big guys in foul trouble, and we did. We also got to the free throw line.”
Vassar 30 32 — 62
Union 31 41 — 72
Vassar scoring: Tebay 3-2-9, Johnson 3-3-9, Bromfeld 4-7-15, Mustafaj 3-0-6, McAuliffe 2-0-5, Rothenberg 3-3-10, Ellis 2-0-6, Sacco 1-0-2, Kappes 0-0-0, Brownridge 0-0-0. Union scoring: Mannix 1-0-3, Eseyade 1-3-5, Concannon 10-5-26, Jefferson 4-2-12, Noone 4-5-14, Manley 3-0-7, George 1-1-3, Laub 1-0-2, Lovisolo 0-0-0. Scoring totals: Vassar 21-53, 15-25 62. Union 25-53 16-22 72.