The men’s basketball team (5-4) competed in the 2021 Paradise Jam tournament last weekend in the U.S. Virgin Islands, finishing sixth out of eight teams. The Bears fell 78-57 to Creighton University in the first round, defeated Bradley University 65-62 in the consolation bracket and lost 54-52 to the University of Colorado Boulder in the fifth place game.
Brown 57, Creighton 78
Brown’s first game in the Paradise Jam resulted in a loss to Big East powerhouse Creighton University (6-1). Creighton’s offense caught fire early, as the Bluejays shot 11 of 16 to take a 26-10 lead with 12 minutes left in the first half. Before intermission, Creighton was five-for-nine from the three-point line, outpacing Brown’s one-for-nine three-point shooting.
Brown rebounded with a 14-7 run, with contributions from guard Dan Friday ’23, forward Jaylan Gainey ’22, guard Paxson Wojcik ’23, guard Kino Lilly Jr. ’25 and forward Tamengang Choh GS, who made his season debut after being out due to a hip injury. “It felt really good being back in the lineup,” Choh said. “Kinda funny, but I’m really looking forward to practice and being back in our gym. I personally got a lot to work on to get back into rhythm.” Despite Brown’s efforts, Creighton maintained a lead of nine or more the remainder of the opening session, ending the first half at 46-29.
Down by 17 to start the second half, Brown continued to fight from behind, with a dunk from Choh narrowing the deficit to 14 with 6:44 remaining. But the Bears were unable to get within 14 points for the remainder of the game, and the Bluejays completed their dominant win.
Lilly Jr. had a team high of 12 points against Creighton, followed by Wojcik’s 10. Choh came off the bench with nine points and four rebounds, and Gainey led the Bears’ defense with a team high of three blocks.
Brown 65, Bradley 62
Brown bounced back from its tournament-opening loss and came out victorious against its second opponent, Bradley University (2-5) of the Missouri Valley Conference. The Bears pushed past the Braves in a thrilling 65-62 win. Forward David Mitchell ’22 and Lilly Jr. led Brown with 11 points each. Choh made his return to the starting lineup, contributing 10 points of his own and a team high of eight rebounds.
The first minutes of the game were a back-and-forth affair, with neither side leading by more than five points. The game was tied at 20 with 6:15 left in the half, but the Bears pulled off a 13-4 run to get ahead 33-26 into the second half.
Brown stayed in front and led 56-50 with 7:30 left in the game. But the Braves caught momentum and went on a 9-0 run to take a 59-56 lead with 4:18 remaining. Lilly Jr. hit a three-pointer with 59 seconds left in the contest, and the Braves answered back on the ensuing offensive possession. To regain the lead, Wojcik notched another three-pointer, and three late free throws by Friday secured the win.
Head Coach Mike Martin ’04 said he was pleased with the way the Bears kept their poise as they transitioned between different opponents. “We tried to play to our identity as much as we could in each game, and I feel we did that for the most part,” Martin said. “From game to game, we adjusted certain defensive coverages based on the opponents’ strengths and we also had different plans offensively, depending on what the opponent was trying to do against us defensively.”
Brown 52, Colorado 54
Brown fell just short to Pacific-12 opponent Colorado (5-1) Monday in the Paradise Jam’s fifth place game. Wojcik’s 14 points and Friday’s 13 helped spark the Bears’ offense, which was complimented by Mitchell’s defensive efforts with a team-high six rebounds.
Brown started the game quickly, up 7-3 just three minutes into the first half with contributions from Wojcik, Friday and Gainey. Brown would maintain momentum and pull away with an eight-point lead of 30-22, before Colorado scored two free throws to cut the lead to six entering halftime. The Bears held the lead for about 30 minutes of the game, but a slow second half gave the Buffaloes a chance at the win.
To start the second half, both teams scored just three combined points in the opening three minutes. After a Wojcik three-pointer with 14:30 remaining, the Bears took a seven-point lead. But Colorado quickly responded with a push of its own, scoring nine unanswered points to take the lead with 11:12 remaining.
The final 11 minutes of the game saw eight lead changes and four ties. The Bears regained the lead with eight minutes left after a Kimo Ferrari ’24 three-pointer. Colorado responded with a three of its own, continuing the back-and-forth contest. With 7:46 to go, it was 46-44 in favor of the Bears.
After a jumper and a free throw, the Buffaloes regained the lead. Choh then retook the lead at 48-47, scoring off a drive to the basket. Colorado went back up 49-48, but a jumper by Friday would give Brown its final lead of the game at 50-49 with 2:03 left in the game.
The Buffaloes overpowered the Bears in the final minutes as they scored off a drive to the basket, caused a turnover and made a jumper to take a 53-50 lead.
The two sides traded free throws in the closing seconds of the game, but Colorado came out on top at 54-52. Despite the loss, the two-point deficit was the closest game the Bears played against a Power Five school since beating Northwestern in the 2007-08 season.
Gainey was proud of the team’s efforts and expressed optimism after the tournament. “Overall, we did really well,” he said. “Our record may not have shown it, but we played some extremely talented and ranked teams, and barely lost. We proved to plenty of doubters that we are really good this year and will be the team to beat in the Ivy (League).”
Aside from playing in the tournament, the off-court experience in the U.S. Virgin Islands was impactful as well, according to players. Activities including snorkeling and boat trips — Gainey and Choh’s favorite parts of the trip — were enjoyed by the squad and staff.
Coach Martin said the experience was key to building the team’s chemistry. “Best part of the trip was being together as a group for an extended period of time and being able to spend so much of the time together,” he said. “Chemistry is so important to every team and it will be critical for us to continue to grow closer off the court as we try to win a championship on the court.”
The Bears traded the 80-degree sunshine in the U.S. Virgin Islands for the fast approaching Providence winter as they took on Bryant University (3-3) Friday. Despite a spectacular rebounding performance from Choh, who secured 21 boards, Bruno fell 65-59 to the Bulldogs. Brown rebounded Sunday with a victory over Quinnipiac University (3-3) by a 72-61 margin, led by 24 points from Lilly Jr.
Brown will battle two more local non-conference rivals in the coming week, as the team will travel to the University of Massachusetts Lowell (5-2) Wednesday night before taking on Sacred Heart University (2-4) at home Sunday afternoon.