Sullivan ’11 leads m. basketball to wins

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Over Thanksgiving break, the men’s basketball team (3-3) kept busy, notching wins over Army on Wednesday night and Eastern Michigan on Saturday afternoon. Tri-captain Peter Sullivan ’11 shone for the Bears, averaging 23 points over the two games.

Wednesday’s game proved to be an offensive showdown, as Sullivan poured in a career-high 26 points and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds to lead Brown to an 80-73 victory over Army. Matt Mullery ’10 gave the Bears a strong presence down low on both ends of the court, finishing with 17 points, six rebounds and five blocks.

“Army was a little bit smaller across the line, so we tried to get the ball down low to Mullery, and we had a lot of points in the paint,” said tri-captain Chris Skrelja ’09.

The first five minutes saw the lead see-saw when, after the Cadets scored the game’s first basket, the Bears scored eight unanswered points. Then Army answered back with seven to grab a 9-8 lead 5:19 into the game.

Down by a point, Sullivan hit the first of his five three-pointers to give the Bears an 11-9 lead, and Morgan Kelly ’11 and Garrett Leffelman ’11 also connected from behind the arc during a 15-4 run.

The Bears made their living from long range on Wednesday, hitting 10-of-20 three-pointers.

“When we started to pound the ball down low, we forced them to double-team Mullery, so we got a lot of open shots on the perimeter, and Peter has been shooting the ball great lately,” Skrelja said.

The Cadets made a run of their own, outscoring Brown 14-4 to tie the game at 27. But a layup by Skrelja gave the Bears the lead back, and Sullivan added nine points in the last 4:04 of the half to finish with 16 first-half points, pacing Brown to a 41-34 lead at the intermission.

The Cadets took advantage of five Brown turnovers in the opening eight minutes of the second half, snagging a 48-47 lead with 12:19 remaining in the game. Turnovers were a weak spot for the Bears, who committed 21 turnovers on Wednesday, compared to just 11 for Army.

Bruno regained the lead on a pair of free throws from Mullery, and Sullivan then extended the lead to 52-48 with a three off the assist from Mullery.

The lead continued to change throughout the half, and with the game tied at 63 with 3:45 left, Mullery put the Bears ahead for good on a layup off an assist from Skrelja.

Skrelja was the crux of Brown’s offense all night, dishing out a season-high 11 assists to go along with his 15 points.

“Our offense was a little bit stagnant at times, so Coach told me I had to be a playmaker,” Skrelja said. “I was just trying to penetrate and kick the ball out, to look for other guys’ shots instead of my own shot, and they finished.”

On the next three possessions, Skrelja found Mullery for another layup, and then scored a basket of his own before finding Sullivan for a three to give the Bears a 72-63 lead with 1:29 left. Army cut the lead to three with 25 seconds left, but Sullivan fired a pass to Mullery under the basket to widen the lead to five, and the game ended with Brown on top, 80-73.

Saturday’s game was a change of pace for the Bears, who gritted out a 53-51 win over Eastern Michigan.

Sullivan shot 5-of-10 from the field and 8-of-12 from the free-throw line for a game-high 20 points.

Then Mullery chipped in nine points and 13 rebounds, as the Bears won despite shooting just 35 percent from the field as a team.

“We played hard-nosed defense and played physical down low,” Skrelja said. “It wasn’t a pretty win, but the important thing is that we found a way to win.”

The Bears struggled to generate any offense early on, and committed ten turnovers in the game’s opening 15 minutes, putting themselves in a 23-14 hole.

“We were a little bit sloppy with the ball, and we were a little timid,” Skrelja said. “Rather than trying to make plays, we were waiting too much for plays to come to us.”

Adrian Williams ’11 got things going for Bruno, hitting four consecutive free throws, and Sullivan added a pair as well, to cut the Eagles’ lead to three.

Kelly followed with a pair of three-pointers in the last 1:04 of the half, both assisted by Williams, to bring the Bears to within two points at halftime, with Eastern Michigan leading, 28-26.

The Eagles increased their lead to six points in the first minute after the intermission, but Brown answered right back on a trey from Sullivan and a three-point play from Skrelja.

Skrelja had another solid all-around game, scoring nine points and grabbing nine rebounds.

The lead went back and forth throughout the second half, until Sullivan drilled a short jumper with 1:56 left to put the Bears ahead 53-51.

Two turnovers and a missed three-pointer on the Eagles’ last three possessions sealed the win for Brown, which improved its record to 3-3 under new Head Coach Jesse Agel.

“Right now, we have a new coach and a new system, and I think we’re learning a lot on a game-to-game basis,” Skrelja said.

“We go through stretches where we look like a championship team, and at other times we don’t look good at all. But overall we’re doing pretty well, and it’s a learning process.”

Brown will resume play on Wednesday night, when they match up against Providence College at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center at 7 p.m.

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