February 1, 2005

BRANDEIS MEN FALL JUST SHORT AT NO. 4 AMHERST, 65-61

AMHERST, Mass. (taken from an Amherst College press release) -- In a game that featured 11 ties and 22 lead changes, the Brandeis University men's basketball team (11-7) lost its first contest of the season against a nationally-ranked team, falling to the No. 4 Amherst College Lord Jeffs, 65-61, in LeFrak Gymnasium.

Amherst junior guard John Bedford (Ridgewood, NJ) led the way with 19 points, nine rebounds, four blocks and three assists, while senior co-captain Andrew Schiel (Wayne, PA) added his first double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 boards.

Amherst (17-1) claimed the largest lead of the first half when Schiel hit a bank shot and Bedford nailed a coast-to-coast runner for an 18-14 edge 9:05 into the game. Brandeis, which came to LeFrak Gymnasium having won five of its last six games, battled back with a 7-0 flurry for a 21-18 lead, capped by a Florian Rexhepi (Skopje, Macedonia) finger roll with 8:11 on the clock. After Amherst senior sharpshooter Russell Lee (Lorton, VA) knotted the score with a three-pointer from NBA range, the two teams traded buckets for the majority of the next seven minutes until Brandeis managed a late 4-0 run on a pair of layups by rookie forward Steve DeLuca (Merrimack, NH) for a 36-33 advantage at the break.

The Jeffs came out smoking in the second half, nailing each of their first four field goal attempts en route to a 46-41 cushion with 15:59 remaining. But they went cold shortly thereafter, missing 12 of 14 tries during a frustrating seven-minute span that saw Brandeis jump out to a five-point lead, 55-50, on a baseline runner by Rexhepi. Amherst managed to regain composure, thanks in part to rookie point guard Andrew Olson's (San Diego, CA) deft ball-handling, and the host Jeffs finished the game with a 15-6 spurt, highlighted by a 8-0 spurt in which Bedford drained a pair of clutch trifectas and Lee splashed a baseline floater to regain the lead for good.

Brandeis would not go away quietly, however. With 2:17 remaining, the pesky Rexhepi brought the Judges within two points, 63-61, with his seventh bucket of the night, and inside the final minute, Brandeis senior center Bryan Lambert (Auburn, ME) had a chance to knot the score at 63-63 but clanked the front end of a one-and-one. Still, with 6.6 seconds on the clock, Brandeis had the ball and a chance to tie yet again, but first-year forward Rocco Toppi (Portland, ME) misfired from behind the arc. Schiel grabbed the rebound and handed off to Olson, who calmly sank a pair of free throws in the waning moments to ice the win.

Olson turned in one of the best games of his young collegiate career, dishing out a season-high nine assists to go along with nine points on 2-for-3 shooting. Lee was stellar as well with 13 points, three assists and three steals.

Rexhepi and Lambert finished with 15 points apiece for Brandeis. Rookie point guard Kwame Graves Fulgham (Amherst, MA), who led nearby Amherst Regional High School to a state championship in 2003, was outstanding as well with eight points, six rebounds and six assists.