November 26, 2006

Brandeis men overcome 11-point deficit to defeat No. 12 Tufts, 99-89

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Brandeis University men's basketball team overcame an 11-point second-half deficit thanks to 18 second-half points by junior Joe Coppens (Rockland, Mass.) as the Judges defeated Tufts University, 99-89, in Red Auerbach Arena today.

Brandeis (4-0) trailed by nine points at the break, 45-36, as Tufts closed the stanza on a 14-5 run. When Tufts junior guard Ryan O'Keefe (Everett, Mass.) opened the second half with a lay-up, the Jumbos took their biggest lead of the game. Brandeis clawed back with a 19-7 run over the next eight minutes, reclaiming the lead at the 11:32 mark on a lay-up by rookie reserve forward Terrell Hollins (Springfield, Mass.).

Tufts (2-2) answered with quick lay-in by senior Brian Kumf (Milford, Mass.) and were able to hold off the Judges until junior Steve DeLuca (Merrimack, N.H.) was fouled on a put-back. DeLuca converted the traditional three-point play putting the hosts ahead, 65-64, with 7:52 on the clock. The Jumbos battled back, tying the contest at 69-69 when senior center Brian Fitzgerald (Bedford, N.H.) hit one of two from the line. Coppens answered with his third 3-pointer of the stanza that gave Brandeis a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Brandeis finished with three different players scoring 20 points and two others reaching double figures. DeLuca and Hollins each finished with 21 points, as both hit nine-of-12 from the floor with three free throws. Coppens, who scored just two points in the first half on a pair of free-throws, hit five-of-seven from the floor in the second half, including all four of his attempts from long range. Junior guard Florian Rexhepi (Skopje, Macedonia) finished 15 points, thanks to a nine-of-12 performance from the charity stripe, and a game-high seven rebounds. Junior backcourt mate Kwame Graves-Fulgham (Amherst, Mass.) rounded out the double-figure scorers for Brandeis with 10 points and six assists, matching DeLuca for team-high honors.

Brandeis shot 57.9 percent from the floor for the game (33-57), including a whopping 69.2 percent in the second half (18-26). The Judges outscored Tufts, 29-8 from the free-throw line.

Tufts was paced by 21 points off the bench by sophomore forward Jon Pierce (Belmont, Mass.) in just 19 minutes of action because of foul trouble. Pierce, who had 15 points by halftime, hit nine-of-12 from the floor with a pair of 3-pointers. O'Keefe finished with 14 points, while junior forward Jake Weitzen (New York, N.Y.) had 14 points and seven assists. Fitzgerald finished with 12 points and senior guard David Shepherd (Grantham, N.H.) recorded a double-double with 11 points and 11 assists. He also led the Jumbos with six rebounds.

Tufts also shot well from the floor, hitting 60.3 percent from the floor (38-63). However, the Jumbos couldn't overcome 24 turnovers to Brandeis's 15, including a 13-6 deficit in the second half.

Brandeis, which improved to 4-0 for the first time since 1994-95, will attempt to match that season's 5-0 start on Tuesday at Babson at 8 p.m., as head coach Brian Meehan will go for his 200th career victory. Tufts, ranked No. 12 nationally in the preseason by d3hoops.com, hosts Springfield College Tuesday at 7 p.m.