Sports

Despite strong start, late defensive switch stymies men’s basketball

Speith’s double-double not enough to overcome Dallier, Bulldogs in 85-75 loss in New Haven

By
Senior Staff Writer
Sunday, January 29, 2017

After a nail-biting 75-74 defeat to Yale last week, the men’s basketball team headed into its fourth Ivy League matchup of the season Friday — a rematch against the Bulldogs (11-6, 3-1 Ivy). The Bears (10-10, 1-3) came into the game looking to avenge their previous loss and build momentum before a tough two-game road trip. But despite holding a ten-point lead midway through the second half, Bruno let the game slip away down the stretch and fell 85-75.

“We were pretty hyped,” said starting forward Travis Fuller ’19. “We lost the week before, and so we really wanted this one. We were mentally prepared, and we had a good week of practice leading up to it, so we were definitely ready.”

Bruno started the game off strong. In the first five minutes, starting forward and co-captain Steven Spieth ’17 sunk a pair of threes, grabbed two rebounds and dished an assist to first-year starter Brandon Anderson ’20 to help the Bears take an early 12-7 lead.

But the Bulldogs fought back. In just two minutes, an offensive surge — fueled by seven points from Anthony Dallier — capped a 12-2 run for Yale that resulted in a 19-14 Bulldogs lead with 11:34 to go in the first half. Bruno committed three turnovers during the run.

“Early on we were solid,” said point guard co-captain Tavon Blackmon ’17. “We were going back-and-forth and a lot of their points were off making very small, minor mistakes. But I think our offense was flowing. It was really intense from the tip.”

After a 30-second timeout called by Head Coach Mike Martin ’04, the Bears regrouped. Bruno mounted a comeback to tie the game at 29 after a three by co-captain JR Hobbie ’17 and then tooka 37-35 lead with just 1:37 remaining in the half after a layup by Obi Okolie ’19. By the halftime whistle, the Bears led 40-39.

“In our heads we were thinking back to the week before,” Fuller said. “Last week, we were up twelve at halftime, and they came back right away so this time we wanted to just finish things out.”

Brown continued its momentum to start the second half. In the first seven minutes, Bruno built a ten-point lead on the Bulldogs, highlighted by a three-pointer from Blackmon, who scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half to put the Bears up 58-48. But despite Brown’s best efforts, Yale clawed itself back into the game.

“We played well. We just missed some shots that we usually will make,” Fuller said. “We keep having little spurts of getting cold and letting teams go on runs. If we get rid of those, we will be fine.”

The Bulldogs made a critical adjustment — switching to a 1-3-1 zone —  and scored 13 unanswered points over the next four minutes to take a 64-60 lead. Dallier led both teams with 30 points, ten coming in the final five minutes, sealing the Bulldogs’ 85-75 victory.

Spieth posted a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds, passing Mike Waitkus ’86 for 17th on Brown’s all-time scoring list. Okolie added a season-high 18 points.

But as for team statistics, Yale outscored Brown 30-7 in free throws and shot 55 percent from the field to 42.

“To be honest, after watching the film yesterday as a team, we just missed shots,” Blackmon said. “A lot of shots that we normally make were just coming out, and the momentum shifted drastically.”

Brown will continue its season on the road this weekend with a conference double-header, visiting Cornell Friday and Columbia Saturday. The games will be pivotal for the team in order to stay in the running for a place in the inaugural four-team Ivy League Tournament.

“Both are really good teams,” Fuller said. “Cornell beat Columbia at Columbia, and Columbia beat Cornell at Cornell. But I think we’re just as good.”

Brown currently sits sixth in the league with 10 games left in the season, ample time to regain its footing in the conference standings.

“As long as we keep working hard and playing hard — everyone just staying in the gym and putting in some work on their individual games — everything will fall into place,” Blackmon said.