The men’s basketball team’s playoff chances took a major hit this weekend with losses to Columbia and Cornell on the road. Entering Friday’s contest against Columbia, the Bears, Lions, and Big Red were tied for the final playoff spot, but the losses put Bruno (11-14, 4-8 Ivy) in a tough position as it went into the final weekend of its season.
With the results, the Bears moved to a tie with Princeton for seventh place in the Ivy League. In order to earn a berth in the Ivy League Tournament, Bruno will have to defeat both Princeton and Penn, as well as hope for losses from Columbia and Cornell this weekend.
“We want to end the season with these home wins,” said Travis Fuller ’19. “We want to send out our (only) senior Jason Massey ’18 with a win.”
Brown 82, Columbia 89
The Bears suffered a heartbreaking loss at the hands of the Lions (8-17, 5-7), who were carried by efficient shooting to a close victory Friday. Brown started the game quickly and jumped out to an early 11-point lead twice in the first half. At one point, the Bears held a 28-19 advantage.
But the wheels quickly fell off for Brown as Columbia’s shots started to fall while the Bears could not find the their way to the basket. The Lions went on a 14-point run, and Bruno went into halftime stunned, down 36-33.
In the second half, the Bears were unable to find their stride and recover from Columbia’s strong scoring streak. The Lions widened the lead to 73-58, but Brown was not ready to go quietly. Bruno began to mount a comeback led by Brandon Anderson ’20 and Desmond Cambridge ’21 to swing momentum in its favor.
The run soon cut the Lions’ lead to 82-78 but was ultimately too little too late for the Bears. Columbia’s accurate shooting from the charity stripe, led by Mike Smith, downed Brown. Smith would finish with 23 points and a 13-14 mark from the free throw line.
Cambridge finished the game leading all scorers with 26 points, followed by Anderson with 23. The Bears shot 39 percent from the field and recorded 12 assists.
Brown 68, Cornell 73
The following night, the Bears and Big Red (11-14, 5-7) kept the score close in the first half, as neither team could find an edge. Obi Okolie ’20 led the team off the bench with nine first-half points, but usual stars Anderson and Cambridge were quiet, combining for just five.
At the break, guided by 11 points from Tamenang Choh ’21, Brown led Cornell 35-31. The team shot 34 percent from the field, compared to Cornell’s 33 percent, and recorded three steals.
In the second period, the Bears began to heat up, jumping out to a 47-40 lead with 13 minutes remaining in the game. But Cornell, led by the clutch plays of Jordan Abdur-Ra’oof, took a 53-50 lead moments later. On their next two possessions, Matt Morgan hit a contested three-pointer and Abdur Ra’oof knocked in a thunderous dunk to extend Big Red’s lead to eight.
Cornell’s run finally ended when Cambridge hit a three-pointer to trim the Cornell lead to five with six minutes to play. Choh and Cambridge were both fouled on strong drives to the basket, and both knocked in their shots at the charity stripe to bring Bruno within two. Chris Sullivan ’19 sunk an and-one layup on an impressive assist from Anderson and knocked in the free throw to put the Bears ahead 64-63.
Bruno and Big Red continued to trade blows as the game came down to the wire, but a basket from Steven Julian extended the Cornell lead to three. A miscommunication resulting from Big Red’s strong defense forced a turnover, but Cornell could not capitalize. Anderson was fouled but only could make one free throw.
The Bears fouled Big Red moments later, and Jack Gordon made both of his free throws to widen the lead to four and put the game out of reach for Bruno.
Choh led all Brown scorers with 17 points followed by Okolie, who notched 15. The Bears finished with a 34 percent field goal percentage and grabbed 49 rebounds.
“My biggest takeaway is how much we competed and the seriousness to how we approached the game,” Fuller said. “This is a fun group to be around because we are consistently making each other better.”
The Bears will return to the Pizzitola Center to close out the regular season against Princeton Friday and Penn Saturday.