Heading into the final two games of the season against Columbia Friday and Cornell Saturday, the men’s basketball team looked to honor its departing leaders, co-captains Steven Spieth ’17, JR Hobbie ’17 and Tavon Blackmon ’17 in their final weekend in Brown uniforms.
The Bears (13-17, 4-10 Ivy) took home an impressive 88-68 win against the Lions (11-16, 5-9). But against the Big Red (8-21, 4-10), Bruno had a hard time stopping Cornell’s fast offense and sharpshooting, falling 92-78.
In the first half against the Lions Friday, the lead changed hands multiple times — with 9:12 on the clock, the Bears were up 25-22.
But after four three-pointers from Hobbie and Spieth, the Bears pulled away, capping a 26-6 run that put Brown up by 23 going into halftime. Bruno’s 51 points in the first half was its most since a 53-point outburst against Johnson and Wales University Dec. 10.
“We played great against Columbia,” Travis Fuller ’19 said. “We played great defense and really shared the ball on offense. Guys were knocking down shots.”
But Columbia’s offense rallied to cut the lead to just 12 with an emphatic dunk from Rodney Hunter with 10 minutes remaining that steered the momentum in favor of the Lions.
The Bears did not let Columbia take control of the lead, going on a 17-5 run which ended on a three-pointer from Corey Daugherty ’19 to give Bruno a 80-56 lead.
Columbia was unable to fight back. After CJ Davis made the score 88-68, neither team scored for the game’s remaining three minutes, allowing Brown to take home the win.
Saturday, Bruno got off to a poor start, allowing a 19-2 run to start the first half against the Big Red. Brown made several substitutions after falling behind early, but Cornell had built a 41-26 lead with seven minutes remaining in the second quarter. The Bears cut the margin to just nine points going into halftime.
“We have to do a better job of being ready to play the full 40 minutes,” said Head Coach Mike Martin ’04. “We had a nice little burst when we made some changes in the lineup to get to single digits, but when you let a team score 92 points, there’s obviously some issues there defensively, and we have got a lot of work to do.”
The Big Red surged again to start the second half, building a 70-55 lead in the first 10 minutes. Despite Bruno’s efforts, the team could not close this gap and eventually fell 92-78.
“We thought if we could keep the ball out of the paint, that could help us limit their three-point attempts,” Martin said. “They got straight line drives to the rim, they got deep post touches and they got some offensive rebounds that lead to some kick out threes.”
Still, the three departing captains have surely stamped their legacy in the Brown record books. Spieth is the fifth all-time leading scorer in program history and has started more games in his career than any other Brown player. Hobbie set a new Brown record in career three-pointers, with 257 — good for fifth-most in Ivy League history. Blackmon is seventh all-time in career assists.
As they were subbed out for one last time, Spieth and Hobbie received a standing ovation. Blackmon missed both Friday and Saturday’s games due to injury.
As Martin remarked, the three seniors have been more than just impact players on the court.
“Those three seniors have meant so much to me personally,” Martin said. “They have meant so much to our program.”
“I was happy for our seniors. They had accomplished some great milestones and all had great careers,” Fuller said.
Brown finished the season tied for sixth in the Ivy League, sharing the spot with Cornell and Dartmouth. Princeton, Harvard, Yale and Penn will move on to the inaugural Ivy League Tournament at the Palestra in Philadelphia, competing for a conference title and a spot in the NCAA tournament.
“We have made good progress as a program this year in a lot of ways,” Martin said. “We are a lot better today than we were 365 days ago.”