The men's basketball team had an up-and-down homestand this weekend, defeating Columbia, 87-79, on Friday before falling to Cornell, 91-79, the following night.
Brown 87, Columbia 79
Fate appeared to be doing everything within its power to deter the Bears as the team headed into its Friday night game. It was dealing with the loss of co-captain Peter Sullivan '11 — the leading scorer and rebounder this season — who had been injured the week before. In practice Wednesday, rising point guard Sean McGonagill '14 had to be rushed to the hospital after smashing his face while grappling for a loose ball with Dockery Walker '14 and Josh Biber '14. He earned 20 stitches, and a plastic surgeon was brought in due to the extent of the injury.
With McGonagill's status for the game against the Lions (12-8, 4-2 Ivy) uncertain, the Bears (8-12, 1-5) seemed destined to remain winless in the conference. But McGonagill returned in glorious fashion — protective facemask and all — and scored 39 points. His total tied the record for most points scored in the Pizzitola Center and is tied for sixth highest in Brown history. Though McGonagill's role throughout the season has been to handle the ball and distribute, his teammates were not shocked by his scoring outburst.
"I'm actually not too surprised because he does it in practice all of the time," said co-captain Adrian Williams '11. "I'm really glad he's breaking out of his shell. He was wearing the mask tonight, and I was joking, calling him ‘The Mask' like the Jim Carrey movie, but he just had an incredible performance. He's a phenomenal player and I'm glad he carried us tonight."
Head Coach Jesse Agel also had high praise for McGonagill's game.
"It was an epic performance that he and everyone else who was lucky enough to be here and witness will remember for the rest of their life," Agel said. "Wednesday night, that kid took a tremendous shot to the face, and he spent a long time in the hospital … I didn't want him to play unless he was 100 percent okay, but he's just so tough. … Boy, did he play, and he played and he played. Brought tears to my eyes."
McGonagill seemed to be competing on a different level against the Lions. His 15-of-19 shooting from the field tied for seventh on Brown's list for field goals in a game and broke the Pizzitola Center record of 12 field goals in one game, set in 2002. He was nearly unstoppable from every spot on the court, sinking three of four from beyond the arc and six of eight free throws. Two days removed from a hospital bed, McGonagill played all 40 minutes and added six assists and four rebounds to his 39 points.
But Brown needed outstanding performances from other key players to win its league game, especially in Sullivan's absence. Williams, a player McGonagill refers to as a "big brother," had an impressive showing, scoring 20 points on seven-of-11 shooting in 32 minutes off the bench. Dockery Walker '14 provided a much-needed inside presence. He has embraced his new role since joining the starting lineup a week earlier against Princeton. He finished the game against the Lions with a double-double, scoring 13 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.
"My teammates really helped me out a lot," McGonagill said. "Maybe it's the face mask, but I just felt real confident playing basketball. I was just thinking it doesn't matter how many points I'm scoring or it doesn't matter who's scoring, as long as we are keeping our lead, playing defense and winning the game."
Cornell 91, Brown 79
Bruno was unable to carry the momentum from Friday's win into the following evening's matchup against Cornell (5-15, 1-5 Ivy). They fell, 91-79, as Cornell grabbed its first conference victory of the year. The Big Red did all they could to silence McGonagill, holding the weary freshman to 11 points on four-of-16 shooting.
"Every time he came around a ball screen, they doubled him and they made him give it up," Agel said. "He still got a lot of opportunities. He just looked like his legs were a little tired. He played almost every second over the weekend, and he did a great job, but we can't expect him to carry us."
With McGonagill relegated to distributing the ball — he finished with seven assists — Tucker Halpern '13 became the fifth Bear to lead the team in scoring in five games, registering 26 points to go along with nine rebounds and five assists.
The Big Red displayed a balanced attack, finishing with six players in double figures. They shot 16 of 34 from beyond the arc, with more than half of their points coming from three-point range.
From his position on the bench, Sullivan saw a change in his team from the night before.
"I don't think we had as much energy," he said. "Last night, we were really eager to get the win. We were winless in the league, and we were being real competitive. Tonight, they scored 91 points — just way too many points. You've got to give Cornell a lot of credit. They hit a ton of threes, they played really well and they hit tough shots."
The Bears hit the road again this weekend, seeking to improve upon their Ivy League record. They travel to Dartmouth on Friday and will face Harvard the following night.