March 8, 2008

No. 5 men's hoops heads to Sweet 16 with 68-53 win over Bowdoin

WALTHAM, Mass. – In the second round of the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Tournament tonight, the Brandeis University men's basketball team weathered a second-half storm against visiting Bowdoin College, answering a 16-2 Polar Bear run that opened the second half with eight unanswered points of their own to pull away for a 68-53 victory.

Brandeis (22-5) improved on its school-record win total by putting three starters in double figures. Junior Kevin Olson (Rockport, Mass.) tied for game-high honors with 15 points, nine coming in the second half. Senior guard Joe Coppens (Rockland, Mass.) added 14 points, hitting four-of-eight from 3-point range. Sophomore forward Terrell Hollins (Springfield, Mass.) added 11 points, eight in the first half, and tied two teammates with a game-high four assists. The Judges also got a stellar performance off the bench from sophomore Rich Magee (Burke, Va.), who had eight points, five rebounds, two blocks and two steals, and contributed a key stretch in the rally. Senior Stephen Hill (Brighton, Mass.) tied for game-high honors with six rebounds. The Judges won the battle of the boards, 33-28, and turned 11 Polar Bear turnovers into 18 points, while Bowdoin scored just two points of 7 Brandeis miscues.

Bowdoin (22-7) also put three players in double figures. Senior Jordan Fliegel tied for game-high honors with 15 points, 10 coming in the second half, including six in the run that got the Polar Bears back in the game. He also tied for game-highs with six rebounds and four assists. Sophomore Mark Phillips tallied a game-high 12 bench points, also scoring six in the early part of the second half. Senior guard Andrew Hippert finished with 10 points, but it came on just 3-of-13 shooting from the floor. Sophomore Mike Hauser tied for team-high honors with six rebounds. After shooting 55% from the field in their opening round win, Bowdoin connected on just 42% tonight. The Polar Bears had 53 in the first half of their win over Curry, but 53 for the whole game tonight.

The Judges never trailed in the first half, jumping out to a 17-7 lead with just under nine minutes gone. The margin bounced between eight and 11 points the rest of the way before Coppens connected from downtown as time ran out to give Brandeis a 35-22 lead at the break.

Bowdoin got back into the contest by holding Brandeis without a field goal over the first eight minutes, while they were connecting on six-of-11 shots and grabbing eight rebounds. The Polar Bears took their first lead of the contest on back-to-back jumpers by Phillips, going ahead 38-37, with 13:10 left.

Brandeis reclaimed the lead on a pair of Florian Rexhepi (Skopje, Macedonia) free throws, leading to Magee's big stretch. He picked up a steal and lay-up on the following in-bounds play, drawing a foul. Though he missed the free throw, he came back with another steal and bucket, then blocked a shot on the other end of the floor. Hill hit two free throws to push the lead to seven, 45-38, with 10:39 remaining. The teams traded buckets on their next two possessions before Coppens and Olson connected from beyond the arc on consecutive trips to reestablish the double-digit lead, 53-42, with 6:06 remaining, and won going away, 68-53.

With the win, Brandeis advances to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1978, where they will face Plattsburgh State next weekend at a site to be determined. The Cardinals defeated John Jay University, 83-77, in overtime.