The men's basketball team fell below the .500 mark Sunday night, losing to Sacred Heart 77-64 after dropping three of its four matchups in the National Invitation Tournament Season Tip-Off.
The squad (3-4) lost its first three games of the tournament — falling to Albany 77-68, Manhattan 54-52 and George Mason 74-48 — before toppling Monmouth 79-71 in its final game in the consolation bracket. The week before the Bears defeated Hartford 59-52.
Stephen Albrecht '12.5 had a breakthrough performance against the Monmouth Hawks (0-6), leading the team with 22 points on eight of 13 shooting from the field, including four of eight from three-point range. Sean McGonagill '14 added 18 points and eight assists, while Andrew McCarthy '13 and co-captain Matt Sullivan '13 contributed 13 points apiece.
The Bears unleashed an impressive shooting display, connecting on 61.2 percent of shots from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc as a team.
"It was an honor to be invited to play in the most prestigious annual tournament," said Head Coach Jesse Agel. "We competed really, really well, and we had a chance to win those other three games."
After their victory against Monmouth, the Bears traveled to Connecticut to face Sacred Heart (4-3), losing a game that was closer than the final score indicated. Despite falling behind by as many as 15 points in the first half, Bruno battled back to cut the Pioneers' lead to eight at halftime. The Bears stormed out of the gate in the second half, grabbing a three-point advantage with just over 10 minutes remaining. But Sacred Heart responded with a 13-1 run and held on to the lead for the remainder of the game.
For the second straight game, Albrecht was the Bears' leading scorer, finishing with a career-high 23 points. Albrecht — who was forced to sit out last season after transferring from the University of Toledo — connected on eight of 17 shots from the field and six of 12 from beyond the arc. His six three-pointers rank 10th-best in school history.
"Stephen had his second great offensive performance, and he is beginning to show himself as a really good player," Agel said. "He's been injured, so he had a really short window of opportunity to practice and get back. I'm absolutely amazed at what he has been able to do without getting the repetitions that one would need to be at the top of his game."
Albrecht's recent emergence as a scoring threat has also reduced the pressure on his teammates.
"I'm always looking for guys on the perimeter when I drive from the wing, so me and him working together was really helpful," said McGonagill, the team's point guard. "He took advantage of open shots and knocked them down, so he really stepped up and gave us a big burst of energy throughout the game."
Several players on the young Brown squad have been forced to take on a larger scoring role in the absence of the team's leading scorer, co-captain Tucker Halpern '13. The squad has also been plagued by other injury and eligibility issues.
"Whatever can go wrong has gone wrong," Agel said. "I give our guys an unbelievable amount of credit to keep battling and not using it as an excuse at all."
The Bears face an arduous stretch in their next three games — they challenge the University of Rhode Island Wednesday and then visit the University of Iowa and Providence College.
"Brown's history against URI and Providence in the last 10 years has not been one of success," Agel said. "But to go out to Iowa is a great … chance for us to get to the Midwest, where some of our guys played."
"Iowa will be a new experience," McGonagill, a native of Brookfield, Ill., said, "but I think it will be nice for some of us Midwest guys because we get to see our family and a few friends."