The men’s basketball team kicked off its season this weekend with a loss to Cincinnati (2-0) Friday and a win over Niagara (0-2) Sunday.
From the beginning of the action Friday, Bruno (1-1) was outmatched by its American Athletic Conference foe, which earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament as a nine-seed last year. The Bearcats had four scorers pour in 10 or more points on the evening, while the Bears had just one: veteran guard JR Hobbie ’17.
More than half of Brown’s 16 players are freshmen or sophomores. Head Coach Mike Martin ’04 showed trust in his team’s youth, selecting two freshmen — forward Joshua Howard ’20 and guard Brandon Anderson ’20 — to play in his starting squad.
After one half of play, Cincinnati led Brown 43-25. The second half was similarly non-competitive, resulting in a 84-55 loss for the Bears.
The youth movement continued Sunday afternoon when Brown hosted the Niagara Purple Eagles in front of 757 fans at the Pizzitola Sports Center. Howard, the son of NBA All-Star Juwan Howard, jumpstarted Brown’s offense in the first half, scoring 14 points in the 20 minute period. Chris Sullivan ’19 provided some valuable minutes off of the bench defensively.
The team got “great energy from Chris,” Martin said. “He’s been working hard, waiting for his opportunity, and he got his name called early tonight, … and he did really well.”
At the break, the Bears led the Purple Eagles 42-36.
After a solid first half outing with 11 points, one rebound and four assists, captain Steven Spieth ’17 took over the game in the second half. Spieth poured in 27 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out nine assists in 39 minutes of play — all of which were game highs. Much of Spieth’s scoring was due to his efficiency at the foul line: He tallied 19 points on 22 attempts from the stripe. “I know if I’m aggressive off the ball and on the ball, I’m going to have the potential to get to the line a lot,” Spieth said.
Obie Okolie ’19 and Tavon Blackmon ’17 added to the offense with 15 and 13 points, respectively.
A mid-second half resurgence by Niagara brought the visitors within two points with 12:05 left to play. But that was as close as it would get. Bolstered by a 10-point, seven-rebound performance off of the bench by Travis Fuller ’19, Brown held on to a narrow lead for the rest of the game, eventually solidifying an 88-79 win.
While he was pleased with his team’s performance, Martin noted that his team has room to improve on the defensive end.
“At the end of the day, they shot 50 percent (from the field) and scored 79 points, so we’ve got to get better defensively,” Martin said.
Brown continues to play this Wednesday, Nov. 16, with an in-state clash at the University of Rhode Island.