Every minute mattered as Bruno entered its weekend games at Columbia and Cornell in an effort to sweep the New York teams and solidify its chances at an Ivy League tournament appearance and an NCAA tournament bid. Going into the weekend, there were only six Ivy League men’s basketball games left in the regular season, making each game crucial. But the Bears split the matchups, beating the Lions and falling to the Big Red, to settle into fourth place in the conference standings.
Brown 72, Columbia 66
During the first three minutes of the first half, both teams struggled to score. Despite rebounds secured and timely passes made, each team started off 0/4 from the field. But soon enough, Brown (13-10, 6-4 Ivy) found an offensive rhythm and made a 6-0 run for an early 7-2 lead.
Possessions ending without payoff, fumbling around with the ball in the paint and deflected passes made for a slow game pace. Play by play, a new sense of aggression re-entered the game and shots started to fall for the Lions (6-20, 1-9) and the Bears.
Just before the eight-minute mark, Perry Cowan ’23 hit a three-pointer to end a 10-0 Columbia run and tie the game. But the Lions’ run extended to 17-3 during the following two minutes. Bruno had the scoring opportunities, yet failed to connect on them until Brandon Anderson ’20 went for back-to-back jump-shots in traffic to energize Brown.
With a couple of stops and a few made baskets, Brown shrunk its deficit to 35-30 going into halftime.
Both teams scored within the first 40 seconds of the second half, demonstrating that the Bears and Lions were uninterested in another slow start. The Bears made a 15-4 run during the opening seven minutes of the half to tie the game at 47.
“We understood what was at stake and knew we were the better team and had to prove it,” said Tamenang Choh ’21. “Columbia did a good job at making it hard but we played and won together as a family.”
The increasing pace of the competition rewarded the players who ran the court. Brown and Columbia scored by filling the lanes and finding the open man. Bruno forced the Lions to turn the ball over and converted the plays into fast-break jump-shots.
But Columbia upped its pace as well to create baskets. Once again, the matchup came down to the last 30 seconds of the game. Bruno pulled out the win 72-66 — the same exact score of the teams’ last encounter at the Pizzitola Sports Center on Feb. 1.
In the final minutes, veteran players “were terrific and have been doing it for us all season,” said Head Coach Mike Martin ’04. “We forced (Columbia) into some tough ones and (I’m) really proud of our team.” Anderson, Choh and Zach Hunsaker ’20 finished with 20, 15 and 17 points, respectively.
“It started with the defense which led to some big offensive possessions down the stretch,” Choh said.
Brown leads the league in offensive rebounding since conference play started. “We’re not always the best offensive team,” Martin said. “But we can get ourselves some extra possessions by going and getting on the glass.”
Cornell 63, Brown 45
Right from the jump ball, both teams settled into a groove. Cornell (6-17, 3-7) picked up Anderson full court out of respect for the Bears’ leading scorer, and Brown found openings to add points to the scoreboard.
By the midway point of the half, a new sense of urgency and energy entered the game thanks to Big Red steals. The Big Red led 24-12 with less than seven minutes to go in the first half, with Bruno staying within striking distance by picking up its defensive intensity with a full court press of its own and better ball security.
Still, the Bears, who underperformed throughout the game, struggled to stop Cornell from scoring despite putting their own points on the board. The Big Reds’ runs were short-lived but frequent and allowed the team to remain in the driver’s seat for the majority of the first half. During the last four minutes, Bruno unsuccessfully fought to regain the lead and went into the locker room down 34-25.
Cornell spent the opening five minutes of the second half creating a 7-2 run and further deflating Brown. It made layups in transition off of steals and made the Bears scramble to piece together plays.
With six minutes to go in the competition, Cornell was comfortably ahead by 20 points and kept control of game play to beat Brown for a final score of 63-45.
By the end of the game, Bruno had shot 26 percent from the field to Cornell’s 51. Anderson finished the night with seven points, Hunsaker with nine and Choh with 13 for an uninspiring team box score.
“We had a tough scoring night and the energy wasn’t there,” Hunsaker said. “We let (Cornell) dictate the pace of the game (when) we didn’t respect them enough and weren’t locked in on defense.”
The Bears hope to regroup for wins against Princeton and Penn Friday and Saturday at the Pizzitola Center.