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M. basketball drops Ivy opener but will get rematch

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The men’s basketball team (6-9, 0-1 Ivy) began winter break with an 89-73 win over Quinnipiac on Dec. 29 on its hottest shooting performance of the season, which included astounding 82 percent (14-of-17) shooting from behind the three-point line, a school single-game record.

However, that impressive shooting exhibition did not carry into the remaining games leading into Ivy League play, as the Bears fell Friday night, 70-62, in their first conference match-up, against Yale.

The Bears started off the game well as they took an early 15-4 advantage but soon cooled off as the Bulldogs pulled to within two at the half, 29-27. The game stayed neck-and-neck with five lead changes in the opening ten minutes of play in the second half, until Yale took the lead for good with less than four minutes remaining, pulling out a 70-62 road win.

Matt Mullery ’10 led the Bears in scoring with a game-high 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting. Sullivan and Williams contributed 14 points each while Friske added six points, eight rebounds and five assists.

The Bears will look to even their conference record when they travel to Yale on Friday and take on the Bulldogs for the second weekend in a row.

“We knew going in to the first Yale game it was going to be a hard-fought game,” Mullery said. “We’re looking forward to playing them again and have confidence going into the game.”

After finals and a 12-day rest from competition, the Bears headed into a game against Wagner on Dec. 21. Despite 18 points and five rebounds from Mullery, Bruno had a hard time putting the ball in the net. Brown shot a meager 28 percent from the floor in the first half as the Seahawks took an early 32-16 advantage with three minutes to play in the half. Adrian Williams ’11, who finished with 10 points, was the only other Bear to join Mullery in double digits as the team fell, 78-66.

“We really struggled to get any real consistent practice time during exams,” Head Coach Jesse Agel said. “We weren’t ready to mentally cope in that situation.”

The Bears headed their separate ways over the holidays and reconvened ready to play Quinnipiac on Dec. 29. Led by Williams’ career-high 29 points, the Bears put together one of their best offensive performances of the season. They took a 47-29 lead into the half, led by 16 points from Williams and 15 points from Mullery.

The Bears finished off the game strong with a win and a well-rounded scoring effort. Williams led all scorers with 29 points on 9-of-11 shooting, Mullery tacked on 22 points with seven assists and no turnovers, and tri-captain Peter Sullivan ’11 followed closely behind with 21 points. Sullivan and Williams combined to shoot 86 percent from behind the arc, going 12-of-14.

“We had a lot of guys hitting from the outside,” Mullery said. “When we shoot the ball well and defend, we’re a tough team to beat.”

The Bears hit the road for their last two non-conference road games of the season. They were cooled off by American on Jan. 2, following up their 82-percent performance from behind the arc with a more modest 6-for-20 mark from three-point range. The game started off tight as the Bears fought hard until the half’s closing minutes. But American pulled away in the second half to hand the Bears a 68-53 loss, despite Mullery’s team-high 16 points, 13 of which came in the second half.

The ACC’s Virginia awaited Brown on Jan. 6 as the Bears put together a solid effort against a team from one of the toughest conferences in the country.

“Virginia’s the best team we’ve played all year,” Mullery said. “Guys in that conference are physically on a different level. We played the hardest we had in a long time and hope to sustain that effort for the rest of the season.”

They found themselves down 39-29 at the half as the Cavaliers converted nine Brown turnovers into 15 points. The Bears’ 23-percent second-half shooting pushed them even further behind, as they fell, 74-50. Sullivan led the team with 14 points and six boards, followed by Williams’ 13 points. Brown hosted Bryant on Jan. 10, ready to take down its in-state rival. The Bears outscored the Bulldogs 19-2 for a stretch late in the first half to build a 16-point lead and Bruno went into the half up 38-25. Bryant came out of halftime with more firepower on the offensive side, and pulled the game to within three with 10 minutes remaining.

Brown went on its own 12-3 scoring run to take the lead for good with two minutes to play, finishing off the Bulldogs 69-56. Friske scored a season-high 15 points and pulled down eight rebounds. Mullery led the team with 16 points to go along with seven boards, while Skrelja led the Bears in rebounds yet again with 11.

Skrelja “doesn’t need to score to affect the game,” Agel said. “He has a lot of responsibilities outside of scoring for us, whether it’s rebounding or guarding the best player.”

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