WALTHAM, Mass. - The Brandeis University men's basketball team rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit today to defeat the visiting New York University Violets, 79-77, in a University Athletic Association (UAA) match-up in Auerbach Arena. With the win, the Judges surpassed their win total from last season with just over half the schedule remaining.
Brandeis (8-5, 1-2 UAA) did not lead until the clock read 2:26 remaining in the game, but after rookie guard Joe Coppens converted his traditional three-point play, the Judges did not trail again. The hosts had four players score in double figures, paced by a career-best 27 points from rookie guard Florian Rexhepi. That total included a perfect 12-for-12 performance from the free throw line that tied a conference record for free-throw percentage in a game with four others. Rexhepi also had a career- and game-high eight rebounds. Rookie forward Steve DeLuca tallied 16 points and seven rebounds, while senior center Bryan Lambert had 13 points before fouling out, including a pair of key 3-pointers as the Judges were on the comeback. Coppens rounded out the double-figure scorers with 11 points off the bench. In addition to completing the key three-point play, he was three-of-four from the floor and five-of-six from the line as nine of his points came in the second half.
NYU (9-4, 0-3), which lost for the third time in four games, all conference losses, had five players score in double figures, led by defending UAA Rookie of the Year Jason Boone. Boone tallied 17 points point six-of-10 shooting and five-of-six from the line before also fouling out down the stretch. He tied for team-high rebounding honors with sophomore center Daniel Falcon with seven caroms. Senior forward Jeff Gilkerson and junior guard Jared Kildare both had 14 points for the Violets, while Falcon and junior guard Jimmy Janeczek each scored 10. NYU senior co-captain Jason Bayuk led all players with seven assists.
The visiting Violets jumped out to a 14-4 lead just six minutes into the contest by hitting seven of their first eight shots from the floor while the Judges shot two for their first 10. NYU eventually led by as many as 18 points in the first half at 41-23 on a Gilkerson lay-up with 1:17 left on the clock. A 3-pointer by senior Omri Ayalon and two late free throws by Rexhepi allowed Brandeis to climb within 13 at the break, 41-28. Boone led all players with 12 points at intermission, eight of which came in the opening flurry.
In the second stanza, NYU opened with another Gilkerson lay-up and a Janeczek trifecta sandwiched around a Rexhepi fast-break lay-up to take a 46-30 lead just under two minutes in, their biggest of the second half. Brandeis chipped away, going on a 15-4 run over a six minute span to climb within five, 50-45, on a DeLuca bucket. The Violets pushed the lead back to nine on three occasions, the latest coming on a Gilkerson bucket with 6:32 left that gave them a 65-56 advantage. The Judges then closed the game on a 23-12 run that included CoppensB go-ahead hoop. Brandeis hit 13-of-15 from the charity stripe down the stretch, while NYU hit just three-of-eight field goal attempts as they tried to climb back in the game.