The men’s basketball team split their back-to-back this weekend against Dartmouth and Harvard, overcoming a seven-point deficit in the final four minutes to defeat the Big Green, but faltering in a blowout loss to the Crimson. The win over Dartmouth was Brown’s first Ivy League victory of the season after an 0-2 conference start.
Obi Okolie ’19 poured in 27 points over the two matchups to lead the Bears (13-7, 1-3 Ivy), while Tamenang Choh ’21 added 15 total rebounds. Choh also hit a crucial layup with under a minute left in the game against Dartmouth (10-10, 1-3) to give the Bears a lead that they would not surrender. With some of Brown’s other top players struggling, George Mawanda-Kalema ’21 came off the bench and put up 21 points on the weekend, including a single-game career high of 14 points against Harvard (10-7, 3-1).
“It’s not a surprise, it’s not a fluke that (Mawanda-Kalema) played well, because he’s in the gym all the time. He works really hard, he’s got an incredible attitude and energy about him, even when he wasn’t necessarily getting the minutes that he maybe deserved,”said Head Coach Mike Martin.
Brown got off to a slow start against Dartmouth, going down 7-0 into the first media timeout. Choh finally got the Bears started with a jumper five minutes into the game, and Okolie followed suit with a layup. Dartmouth’s Brendan Barry, who entered the game leading the nation in three-point field goal percentage, hit a trey to put his team ahead by six, but Chris Sullivan ’19 answered with a three of his own. Brown whittled Dartmouth’s lead down to two, but another Bruno scoreless spell of almost four minutes allowed the Big Green to retake control. Mawanda-Kalema then brought the Bears within one by scoring seven unanswered points, and Desmond Cambridge ’21 and Sullivan both hit three-pointers to help the Bears take a 27-23 advantage into the break.
The teams continued to exchange leads in the second stanza, with Dartmouth’s Aaryn Rai scoring eight points in the first six minutes of the half to put the Big Green in front of the Bears. Bruno was knotted up with Dartmouth at 40 with under 10 minutes left, but the Big Green began to seize control of the game, taking a seven point lead on an Rai free throw with 4:10 left. Threes by Okolie and Zach Hunsaker ’20 helped the Bears claw back within two, and Choh’s layup gave the Bears a 55-54 advantage. Solid defense and game management down the stretch allowed Brown to hold on for the 60-58 win.
“The layup came off (Cambridge’s) assist, and that’s just how we play, we always use each other,” Choh said of his winning shot.
“We kind of struggled all game offensively but our defense kept us in it. We finished key possessions with defensive rebounds and then towards the end of the game guys made good plays,” Mawanda-Kalema said.
Against Harvard the next night, the Bears again got off to a slow start, but this time they were unable to recover. The Crimson jumped out to a 13-7 lead as Henry Welsh came off the bench to score eight early points. A long jumper, contested layup and made free throw by Mawanda-Kalema drew the Bears within three, but the Crimson proceeded to go on a 9-0 run. Despite Harvard dominating most of the half, Bruno managed to add five points in the final minute to go to the locker room down by just six.
The close score didn’t last long, as Harvard powered their way to a 19-point lead with 10 minutes remaining in the game. Brown seemed to have no answer for the Crimson’s dominant defense in a 68-47 loss.
“We’ve been struggling offensively a bit. And (Harvard is) tough,” Mawanda-Kalema said. “Defending them inside, in terms of in the post was tough for us.”
Next week, Brown will return home for another back-to-back, taking on two of the Ancient Eight’s elite teams, Penn and Princeton. Bruno will battle Penn Friday at 7 p.m. and Princeton Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Pizzitola Sports Center.