When Nisre Zouzoua sunk a deep step-back three-pointer with 12 seconds left to give Bryant an 90-89 lead, everyone in attendance Monday at the Pizzitola Center was stunned.
Everyone, that is, except Tavon Blackmon ’17.
Without any appearance of panic, Blackmon took an inbounds pass across half court, slipped past his defender and banked in a layup off the glass with 3.8 seconds left to restore a one-point lead for Bruno. “I had every intention of just getting downhill and just trying to make the best play,” Blackmon said. “The best play just happened to be a wide-open layup.”
Among the chaos of the final sequence, Bryant’s Ikenna Ndugba failed to realize his team was now trailing as a result of Blackmon’s layup. Ndugba dribbled out the rest of the clock, tossed the ball in the air at the buzzer and approached a teammate for a high-five, only to realize his error as Brown celebrated the dramatic win.
Blackmon’s heroics secured the 91-90 win for Bruno (3-4) after it led the entire first half and most of the second. He finished with nine points and eight assists.
Bryant (2-5) was led by Zouzoua, who finished with 31 points, capped off with the late go-ahead three, his fifth of the contest.
Head Coach Mike Martin ’04 said he refrained from calling timeout after Zouzoua’s bucket, knowing it would only allow Bryant’s defense to set up.
“Nobody panicked,” Martin said. “We’ve got three senior captains who’ve played a lot of games. I loved what I saw from them on that last play. I’m not sure that’s a game we win last year or the year before when they hit a shot like that.”
“I didn’t know if coach was going to call a timeout or not,” Blackmon said. “As we got it in bounds, I was just going to go.”
Bryant started the contest 2-of-10 from the field, allowing Brown to carry a 43-39 advantage into halftime after leading by as much as 11 early. Corey Daugherty ’19 and JR Hobbie ’17 provided deep shooting off the bench early, combining for four first-half threes. Hobbie finished the day 5-for-8 from beyond the arc. In total, Brown’s bench outscored the Bulldogs’ 35-18.
“I’m really proud of all our guys,” Martin said of his bench’s performance. “Depending on our opponent and depending on the situation, different guys might get the call.”
Brown also dominated in the paint thanks to forwards Joshua Howard ’20 and Steven Spieth ’17, who finished with 18 and 16 points, respectively. Travis Fuller ’19 added 11 points off the bench on 4-of-4 shooting.
“We did a good job of getting the ball in the middle against their zone (defense),” Martin said.
The Bears spread the ball around, led by Spieth’s career-high nine assists. Overall, Brown totaled 24 assists to Bryant’s 14.
The teams went back and forth in the second half, with Zouzoua and Adam Grant, who finished with 15 points, keeping the Bulldogs in the game. Bryant also benefitted from shooting 19 second-half free throws, compared to just nine for Bruno.
“A ton of credit to those guys for continuing to come back,” Martin said. “We’d get the lead to six or seven or eight, and they had answers.”
Brown continues early-season action Wednesday, concluding a three-game homestand against St. Francis Brooklyn.