Two tight games, two losses for m. hoops

By
Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The men’s basketball team’s woes continued on the road this weekend with a 56-48 loss to Princeton on Friday night, followed by a 64-54 loss to Penn on Saturday night. The Bears led at halftime on Friday, but poor shooting in the second half gave the Tigers the win. Saturday night’s game followed a similar story line, as Brown led for much of the game but faltered down the stretch against the Quakers.

Princeton 56, Brown 48

The Bears came in looking to sweep the season series against Princeton as they took the opening game 61-43 in Providence on Feb. 14, their only conference win of the season.

Tri-captain Peter Sullivan ’11 led Brown (7-19, 1-11 Ivy) with 21 points, shooting 7-of-15 from the field on Friday night, with 14 of his points coming in the first half. But Sullivan’s effort wasn’t enough for the Bears, who shot 35 percent from the floor and 14 percent from behind the three-point line on the night.

Tri-captain Chris Skrelja ’09 had the hot hand early on, scoring seven points in the opening four minutes to keep Brown within two points, at 12-10. Though Skrelja did not score for the rest of the game, he turned in a strong all-around effort for the Bears, grabbing a career-high 16 rebounds and dishing out a team-high five assists.

The Tigers (12-12, 7-4 Ivy) went on a 9-2 run over the next three and a half minutes to take a 21-12 lead, but two baskets from Sullivan jump-started a 17-6 run for Bruno to end the first half. Sullivan accounted for 11 of Brown’s 17 points during that run to vault the Bears to a 29-27 lead going into the locker room.

But after intermission, Brown struggled to convert opportunities on the offensive end. After shooting 44 percent from the field in the first half, the Bears shot just 24 percent in the second half, including a 1-of-12 mark from behind the arc.

“We would take those shots anytime, anywhere to try to win games,” said Head Coach Jesse Agel. “We just didn’t have any luck making them.”

Matt Mullery ’10 scored the team’s first five points of the half to keep Brown’s slim lead intact, 34-33, with 13:35 remaining, but that was the last time the Bears would hold the lead.

Princeton freshman Doug Davis, who led the Tigers with 16 points, knocked down two threes and another jumper over the next 4:36 to put Brown in a 41-36 hole with 8:59 left to play. The Bears kept the game close, and a jumper by Sullivan cut Princeton’s lead to two points, 50-48, with 3:01 left to play, but several costly turnovers down the stretch ultimately gave the game to the Tigers, who came away with a 56-48 victory.

Mullery was the only player other than Sullivan to score in double figures for the Bears, as he finished with 11 points, on 5-of-11 shooting, along with seven rebounds and three blocks.

“We played very well as a team, but unfortunately … we weren’t able get any points off our bench, which would’ve given us a big lift,” Agel said. “But with that being said, we had tremendous opportunities, and wide open shots, we just had some bad luck.”

Penn 64, Brown 54

The Bears came into Philadelphia on Saturday night hoping to avenge a 73-52 loss on their Feb. 13 meeting with Penn (9-16, 5-6 Ivy), and Mullery rose to the occasion, shooting 8-of-9 from the field to finish with 19 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks, all game-highs.

“Matt Mullery had a phenomenal game inside and was tremendous from start to finish,” Agel said.

The Bears got off to a hot start on Saturday, with Chris Taylor ’11 scoring the game’s first four points in his first career start, in place of injured tri-captain Scott Friske ’09, who missed both games this weekend. Following a lay-up by Penn’s Kevin Egee, Skrelja knocked down a three, and two lay-ups by Mullery gave the Bears an 11-2 lead 6:08 in.

“We were able to switch on a lot of screens and defend them pretty well early in the game,” Mullery said. “We did a great job on closing out on their shooters, and we did a good job of rebounding, too.”

A three-point play by Mullery with 8:09 left gave Brown its biggest lead of the night, at 18-5, but the Quakers turned things around in the closing minutes of the first half.

After a Mullery lay-up gave Bruno a 21-10 lead with 3:21 remaining, Penn closed out the half on an 11-2 run to cut Brown’s lead to two points, 23-21.

Penn grabbed its first lead of the game with 15:21 remaining when a three from Rob Belcore put the Quakers ahead, 31-29. The Bears continued to fight, as the second half saw seven lead changes and five ties. Mullery continued to make his presence felt in the paint, and Garrett Leffelman ’11 scored seven points in the final eight minutes, finishing with a career-high nine points in 20 minutes off the bench.

“Chris Taylor and Garrett Leffelman both came in and gave us a spark,” Agel said. “Chris helped us get out to a good start, and Garrett was hanging in there right until the very end.”

A lay-up from Mullery gave Brown its last lead of the game, 54-53, with 3:21 left, as the Bears would not score for the remainder of the contest. Down 60-54 with 1:38 left, Brown had multiple chances to make it a one-possession game, but missed three-point attempts from Leffelman and Morgan Kelly ’11 kept Penn’s lead intact, and freshman guard Zack Rosen iced the game with a pair of free throws with 24 seconds left.

“It was pretty much a carbon copy of the game before. We had open looks and just weren’t able to knock them down,” Agel said. “Our guys did a great job of getting themselves open, finding the open man and having the right guy shooting, but it just wouldn’t go in.”

The Bears will finish their season at home this weekend against Harvard (13-13, 5-7 Ivy) on Friday night and Dartmouth (9-17, 7-5 Ivy) on Saturday night.

“We had a few close losses at Dartmouth and Harvard a few weeks back, and that’s still in our minds,” Mullery said. “Hopefully, we’ll finally be able to win some close games and get the victories this weekend.”