Heading into another weekend double-header against Ivy League opponents Penn and Princeton, the men’s basketball team looked to reverse a trend of disappointing performances at home and capture pivotal wins to keep its postseason aspirations alive.
On Friday, despite keeping the game competitive in the early stages, the Bears (11-15, 2-8 Ivy) could not recover from a 27-2 run by the Quakers (11-12, 4-6) to close the first half, resulting in a 96-72 loss. The following day against the Tigers (17-6, 10-0), Brown’s offense struggled in the first half, putting up just 17 points and setting the course for the Tigers’ eventual 66-51 victory.
“We played hard but just couldn’t get it done,” said starting forward Travis Fuller ’19. “Penn and Princeton are both good teams, but we didn’t play up to our potential. We show signs of how good we can be at times — we just have to do it for 40 minutes.”
Friday’s game was competitive from the gun. Despite Penn taking a slight lead early on, the score was even at 25 with 7:31 to go in the first half. Until then, Bruno had enjoyed a shower of three-pointers from multiple players, including point guard Brandon Anderson ’20 and co-captains Steven Speith ’17 and J.R. Hobbie ’17.
But then the Quakers laid down an offensive surge, going on a 27-2 run to close out the first half. Ryan Bentley scored eight points over this period, and Penn led 52-27 at intermission.
The Bears benefited from a 9-0 run to start the second half but still trailed by 16. This deficit would prove insurmountable for Bruno, and, as Penn’s onslaught was reignited, Brown could not close the gap, eventually losing 96-72.
Speith led scoring for the Bears in the loss, netting 26 points and draining five three-pointers in the process. But in overall field goal percentage, Penn prevailed, shooting 57 percent to Bruno’s 40 percent.
The Bears had less than 24 hours to shake the difficult loss, with a game against first-place Princeton the next day.
“The focus was just to stick to the plan,” Fuller said. “We work so hard in practice every week so that we’re ready to go.”
But the Bears started slow from the opening whistle, allowing the Tigers to build momentum with a 6-0 run in the opening minutes. Midway into the first half, Brown had only notched 10 points to the Tigers’ 19. And after back-to-back threes from Princeton’s Steve Cook with 9:39 and 8:46 remaining, Brown trailed by 15. As the first half buzzer sounded, the Bears were down 33-17.
“I wouldn’t say scoring was our problem,” Fuller said. “We needed to put together more stops. Our offense is very effective.”
In the second half, the Bears’ offense regrouped, with Speith notching 11 of his 17 points in that period. With both teams exchanging blows, Brown outscored Princeton 34-33 in the second period. But the surge in offensive productivity was insufficient to bring Brown back into the game, and the Bears fell 66-51.
Brown now ranks last in the Ivy League standings — two spots down from last week — with only four games remaining in the regular season. This coming weekend, Brown will hit the road for its final two away games against Dartmouth Friday and Harvard Saturday.
Bruno has already played both teams once so far. Though Bruno led both the Crimson and the Big Green at the half in each matchup, the Bears fell in both contests 87-74 and 77-74, respectively.
“Harvard and Dartmouth are good teams but we’ll be ready,” Fuller said. “It is our three captains’ last road trip, so we’re going to come out ready to go.”
These are two must-win rematches for the Bears if they want to remain in contention for a spot in the inaugural four-team Ivy League Tournament at The Palestra in Philadelphia. The matchups also represent good opportunities for Bruno to correct earlier mistakes and build confidence heading into the final week of the regular season.
“We want to go 4-0 to put ourselves in a position to make it to the playoff,” Fuller said.