WALTHAM, Mass. -- The Brandeis University men's basketball team used a career-high 21 points from rookie guard Rocco Toppi (Portland, Maine), including 18 in the second half, to overcome a 13-point deficit and defeat the visiting Emory University Eagles, 79-72, in a University Athletic Association (UAA) contest in Auerbach Arena tonight. With the victory, the Judges have secured their first winning season since 1994-95.
The Judges (13-10, 6-6 UAA) placed three players with 20 points and hit seven-of-11 from 3-point range in the second half to erase their deficit. Rookie guard Florian Rexhepi (Skopje, Macedonia) led all players with 24 points, including 14 in the first half, and also had game-highs with seven rebounds and seven assists, a career-best. Toppi and senior center Bryan Lambert (Auburn, Maine) both scored 21 points as the three players combined for 66 of the JudgesB 79 points. Toppi scored 18 of his career high in the second half, including going four-of-six from beyond the arc.
Emory (14-9, 5-7 UAA) was placed by rookie guard Spiros Ferderigos (Oldsmar, Fla.), who scored 23 points, matching Toppi with a five-for-eight performance from beyond the arc. Junior forward Jeff Hall (Rockville, Md.) added 12 points on five-of-10 shooting with a pair of 3-pointers, while senior forward Chase Fawcett (Orlando, Fla.) added 10 and six rebounds, tied with Ferderigos for team-high honors. Fawcett also led the Eagles with five assists.
Brandeis opened the contest hot, hitting six of their first eight field-goal attempts to open a 16-7 lead eight minutes in. The Eagle defense then clamped down as the visitors scored 26 of the next 32 points to go ahead by 11, 33-22, on a traditional 3-point play by sophomore Barry Corrado (Orlando, Fla.) at the 3:11 mark. Ehe Judges closed on a 7-2 run to get within six, 35-29, at the break. Emory answered at the start of the second, taking the biggest lead of the game at 13 points on senior guard Rashawn AllenBs (Basking Ridge, N.J.) fast-break lay-up. After the Judges moved to within seven points, 53-46, midway through the second half, a barrage of 3-pointer vaulted them back into the contest. The Judges connected from beyond the arc on five of eight possessions in a five-minute span, and hit two free throws on two others. Rookie guard Joe Coppens (Rockland, Mass.) hit his only trifecta of the game at the 6:58 mark to give the Judges a lead they would never relinquish.