The men’s basketball team entered the weekend knowing the reality of its situation — the Bears risked dropping to 0-4 in league play with two losses, which would make an Ivy League tournament appearance that much harder. But instead, they added two to the win column in a quest to join the top four teams in the conference and qualify for the postseason.
The Bears made it known with the first play of the game against Cornell that they were determined to snatch a victory: the Big Red won the tip, but Brown stole it for a fast-break play. Cornell slowed down Brown’s offense, but the Bears made a three as the shot clock expired. That set the tone for Friday’s game and foreshadowed Bruno’s 40 percent three-point shooting to close the first half.
Bruno went on to win the game 74-63 and beat Columbia Saturday 72-66 for its first two wins in league play.
Brown 74, Cornell 63
Both teams quickly settled in and showcased smooth play execution. The Bears got looks beyond the arc and inside the paint, resulting in 52 percent field goal shooting in the first half. When Bruno failed to add to the scoreboard, it was due to missed shots, not because Cornell made flashy defensive plays.
Brown also extended its possessions with up to four offensive rebounds on one play, out-rebounding Cornell 40-30 for the night.
“We wanted to get after the offensive glass and (did) a good job boxing them out,” said Head Coach Mike Martin ’04.
Cornell stayed alive offensively because Brown often left the three-point line open early on in the half. The Big Red knocked down three treys in the first 10 minutes.
The Big Red attempted to slow down Bruno’s offense by occasionally using a three-quarters of the court press. Cornell players outstretched their hands to interfere with Bruno dribbles and shots, but the ball deflected back to Brown, which worked the missteps into a basket.
The referees awarded the Bears for getting into the paint with control, tossing their weight around, and going up strong. With six minutes to go in the half, Cornell had recorded eight fouls, so the Bears easily racked up points from one-and-one free throws.
Cornell put the press back on in hopes of gaining control of the game. But it left the wings open, where Zach Hunsaker ’20 knocked down two deep threes. Daniel Friday ’23 charged the basket for an open layup and the Bears went on a 12-0 run with three minutes to go in the half to take a 35-30 lead.
Hunsaker finished the game with 20 points on 4-5 three-point shooting. “My teammates found me in some great spots, and that always helps. It felt pretty good tonight,” he said.
The Big Red responded with a run to close the half, but still trailed by five points entering the break.
The opening minutes of the second half continued the same story of the first half: Brown leading the offensive and defensive charge, but Cornell staying within striking distance.
“We dictated more with our defensive intensity, being physical without fouling and turning them over 19 times,” Martin said. “We have to hang our hats on our defense.”
By the midway point of the second half, both teams settled into a groove of driving, working the ball around and finishing in traffic. But Brown’s steals, blocks and fast-break points set it apart from Cornell for the rest of the game.
The clock ran out on Cornell’s comeback attempt and Brown defeated the Big Red 74-63.
Brown 72, Columbia 66
A Bruno three-pointer early in the first half and aggressive play showed that the team intended to keep up the strong pace in an attempt to sweep the weekend. But Columbia, coming off of two conference losses, was desperate to start a win streak of its own.
Columbia made easy back door buckets, and Brown worked for open three pointers as both teams traded baskets back and forth for a score of 12-12 during the first eight minutes.
Brown mirrored its play-making from Friday night, scoring inside and outside. The Lions continued their cuts and back screens for short bank shots. Both teams went one-and-done on their shot attempts, gathering defensive rebounds to start offense going the other way.
Active defense made for an intense game between the Bears and the Lions. This energy followed Brown into the locker room with a halftime lead of 36-28 and continued after the break.
Both teams took a physical approach to start the second half: Columbia showed some muscle in the paint, bumping into players and sometimes knocking them down for a no-call and the two points. Brown responded with some physicality of its own, and the referees allowed it. The additional aggression resulted in a two point game, 43-41 Brown, within the first six minutes of the half.
From there, it was a tug of war of lead changes. Columbia took a four point lead with five minutes to go in the half. But a Tamenang Choh ’21 free throw, Friday three and Jaylan Gainey ’22 slam dunk gave Brown the advantage with only two and a half minutes left.
“I thought our bread and butter was getting the ball in the paint down the stretch … it was the defensive stops that won the game,” Martin said. “If we want to win in this league, we’re going to have to show (good defense) and we did in that five minute stretch.”
The next play effectively sealed the game for Bruno: Choh took a charge at just over half court to stop a Columbia fast break.
With the win, Brown improved to a third-place tie in the league standings.
Choh finished with 18 points and five assists, and Brandon Anderson ’20 notched14 points and two assists.
“Going 2-0 (on the weekend) — we’re happy,” Anderson said. “It wasn’t an easy weekend. It was real tough, but we got a good group of guys who are going to play hard. The stops, blocks, steals, deflections — those type of plays are going to carry us throughout the rest of this league play.”
Brown looks to rack up more league wins next weekend. It will host Dartmouth Friday and Harvard Saturday.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the men’s basketball team will face Dartmouth and Harvard next weekend on the road. In fact, these games will be held at home. It also stated that the men's basketball team currently ranks fifth place in the Ivy League. In fact, the team is currently in a three-way tie for third place. The Herald regrets the error.