The men's basketball team played its home opener Saturday, defeating Sacred Heart in an exciting non-league match, 81-67. Earlier in the week, Bruno (2-1) fell to the Atlantic 10 powerhouse University of Rhode Island, 92-67.
The key to Bruno's success against Sacred Heart (0-4) was a balanced attack. Against Fordham, Brown's first opponent of the year, and Rhode Island, the Bears attempted 60 and 55 shots from the field, respectively, and 34 and 23 shots from beyond the arc. In the Fordham game, Bruno shot 41.7 percent from the field and 29.4 percent from three-point range, and against Rhode Island those numbers fell to 40 percent and 26.1 percent.
The team lacked a strong inside presence, allowing opponents to defend the perimeter and force tough shots. In the game against the Pioneers, the Bears were able to penetrate the defense, forcing Sacred Heart to defend the lane and freeing up players for quality shots.
"Our ability to drive the ball was real important to us because we can't just rely on our shooting," said Head Coach Jesse Agel. "Once we are able to drive the ball, our shooting will come into play. We shot 67 percent in the first half, over 60 percent in the game and they were high-percentage shots that we took."
Bruno's post presence came in the form of forwards Peter Sullivan '11 and Tucker Halpern '13, whose abilities to slash to the basket opened the court for the rest of the team. Sullivan led all scorers with 26 points, shooting six of eight from the field and two of three from three-point range. His aggressive play also earned him a game-high eight rebounds and multiple trips to the free-throw line, where he shot a perfect 12 for 12.
Halpern had an impressive performance as Bruno's second leading scorer, shooting five for 10 from the field and 4-4 from the free-throw line to finish with 14 points. Halpern's ability to drive to the basket forced the defense to collapse, allowing him to pass the ball around to get the rest of the team open looks.
"He's a very unselfish player," Agel said. "He can do a lot of things for his size. He's a guy that can make guys around him a lot better, and that's what you have with good players."
Another emerging figure on the Bear's roster is Sean McGonagill '14, a rookie point guard from Illinois. In the first three games of his college career, he is averaging 9.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 6.3 assists in 33.3 minutes. Though the weight of his first home game got to him as he struggled with turnovers in the opening minutes against Sacred Heart, he finished the game with nine points and a game-high eight assists.
"He's been everything we thought he could be," Agel said. "He's just a joy to coach because he loves it so much and he plays so hard."
Last season, Bruno was forced to experiment with different players at the point guard position, moving Matt Sullivan '13 from his natural two-guard spot and putting pressure on Adrian William '11 to make shots. With McGonagill starting, Sullivan and Williams have been key bench players, hitting clutch shots and allowing the team to run the floor more effectively.
"It's been great," Halpern said of McGonagill's integration into the team. "We really needed a point guard to come in, and he was just what we needed. We get the ball up the floor a lot quicker, and he makes things happen."
On a team with nine underclassmen and four seniors, there is still a great deal of uncertainty for the rest of the season. However, winning two key games early in the year has buoyed spirits. The team returns to action at home Wednesday at 4 p.m. to face St. Francis in their final home matchup before a four game, 10-day road trip.