Sports

Bears ride unlikely heroes to victory over Lions

Okolie ’20 hit the game winning three, moving Brown to third place in the Ivy League

By
Senior Staff Writer
Sunday, February 11, 2018

After splitting its games last weekend, the men’s basketball team fell to Cornell Friday before riding the rebounding of Tamenang Choh ’21 and clutch shooting of Obi Okolie ’19 to an overtime victory against Columbia Saturday. Okolie hit a three-pointer in the waning seconds of the game to secure the victory over the Lions.

With the weekend’s results, the Bears (11-10, 4-4 Ivy) remain in a third-place tie in the Ivy League standings. As Bruno prepares for its final six games of the regular season, the team is positioned to qualify for the Ivy League Tournament in March.

“Every game is so important,” said Head Coach Mike Martin ’04. “We’ve won some really close games so far in this league. … We’re confident.”

Brown 60, Cornell 78

Brown did not look prepared at the start of the game against the Big Red (9-12, 3-5). The Bears did not respond well to Cornell’s full-court press, and shot 0-8 to start the contest and fall into an early 13-0 hole.

“We got some good looks early that didn’t go down,” Martin said. “We were just a little bit rushed offensively once we got down, and our defense didn’t allow us to get out in transition.”

Brown was unable to recover from the early deficit in the first half. Cornell shot a hot 60 percent from the field and played stifling defense against Bruno’s offensive attack. At halftime, Cornell held a 47-35 lead. Following last weekend’s game-winning performance against Princeton, Desmond Cambridge ’21 was a standout again for the Bears, scoring 16 first-half points with three rebounds.

In the second stanza, Brown came out slow once again and allowed the Cornell advantage to quickly widen to 18 points. But the Bears refused to give up and tried to claw their way back into the game. An athletic block from Choh woke up the Pizzitola Sports Center, as a shot from Okolie trimmed the Big Red lead to 13.

But the Bears were ultimately unable to break through Cornell’s defense, ceding  an 18-point loss. Cambridge was the star for Brown with 26 points, followed by Okolie, who notched eight points. The team recorded 20 offensive rebounds and shot 31 percent from the field, compared to Cornell’s 55 percent.

“Tonight was probably a reality check for all of us,” Martin said. “If we thought that we were better than we are, tonight showed us that we are not.”

Brown 91, Columbia 88 (OT)

The Lions (6-15, 3-5) were blazing hot from the opening tip, as Columbia started the contest with three straight three-pointers. Their 7-8 shooting mark helped them jump out to an early 17-7 lead.

But the Bears were not ready to allow a repeat of the night before. The duo of Brandon Anderson ’20 and Cambridge powered Bruno to match Columbia’s high-scoring attack. A thunderous breakaway dunk from Okolie tied the game at 20 and gave the Bears momentum.

At the half, the Bears led 36-29, paced by Cambridge’s 13-point effort. Zach Hunsaker ’20 also notched nine points and two rebounds. Both squads shot 37 percent from the field and grabbed 22 rebounds.

In the second half, Brown and Columbia continued to trade blows and keep the game close. Cambridge electrified the crowd with a 360-degree dunk, but two costly fouls on Columbia’s three-point attempts kept the Lions in the game.

With seven minutes remaining, Columbia took a six-point lead on a three-pointer from Lukas Meisner and jump shot from Mike Smith. But Cambridge managed to get free with an athletic spin and drove to the basket for a vicious dunk to keep the Bears within striking distance.

But a minute later, Cambridge went down with an apparent ankle injury on an attempted block, and would not play the rest of the game. With four minutes to play, Choh drove to the basket to complete an and-one layup to tie the game at 69.

Anderson completed a reverse layup with just 59 seconds remaining in the game to give the Bears a slim one-point lead. After Smith missed a three-point shot, Anderson gave Bruno a three-point lead on a jump shot with just 18 seconds left in the contest.

Smith drained a contested trey with five seconds to go to tie the game at 77, and Anderson could not sink the open shot to win the game at the buzzer.

In overtime, both squads started strongly, each making a three-pointer to level the game at 82. With a minute and a half to play, Kyle Castlin drained two free throws to give the Lions a three-point edge. But Choh knocked in a tough layup moments later to trim the Lions’ lead down to one.

After two free throws from Smith extended the Columbia lead to three, Anderson was fouled with 13 seconds remaining and sank his first free throw. He missed the second, but Choh got the clutch offensive rebound and passed to Okolie behind the three-point arc. Okolie launched a step-back three and made the shot with nine seconds left to give the Bears a one-point lead.

“It was a huge rebound by (Choh),” Okolie said. “He had the awareness to pass it out to me, and they were scrambling off his rebound. So I stepped up and made the three.”

Smith took the ball coast-to-coast and attempted a layup with two seconds remaining, but could not get the shot to fall. Okolie got the rebound and was fouled, making both his free throws to extend Bruno’s lead to three. He would finish the game with 12 points. Smith missed a half-court heave as the buzzer sounded, propelling the Bears to a much-needed victory.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of our players,” Martin said. “It wasn’t going our way, but we fought through it.”

Cambridge finished leading all Brown scorers with 23 points, followed by Anderson with 17 points and Hunsaker with 15 points. The Bears shot 48 percent from the field and recorded 42 rebounds.

“That was college basketball at its finest,” Martin said. “Ultimately we made one more play than they did.”

The Bears will take to the road next weekend, facing conference-leading Harvard Friday and Dartmouth Saturday.