March 7, 2008

Rexhepi, Graves-Fulgham lead No. 5 Brandeis men to 80-59 win over Lasell, in NCAA Tourney 1st Round

WALTHAM, Mass. – Brandeis University senior Florian Rexhepi (Skopje, Macedonia) poured in a season- and game-high 19 points of the bench, while classmate Kwame Graves-Fulgham (Amherst, Mass.) became the Judges' all-time assists leader with a career-high 14 helpers as the host Brandeis University men's basketball team defeated Lasell College, 80-59, in the first round of the NCAA Division III men's basketball tournament. With the victory, the Judges set a University single-season record for wins and advance to play Bowdoin College in the second round tomorrow at 7:00 p.m.

Brandeis (21-5) used superior depth to pull away from the Lasers, as Rexhepi's 19 points came in just 18 minutes of play and helped the Judges' bench outscore Lasell by a 28-5 margin. Rexhepi scored 11 of his points in the second half. He shot eight-for-11 for the game, including five-of-six after the break. He connected on both of his 3-point attempts and went one-for-two from the line.

Graves-Fulgham had five assists by halftime, and needed four more in the second half to surpass Stanley House '89. He got the record-breaking assist on a fast-break lay-up by senior Joe Coppens (Rockland, Mass.) 4:45 into the second half. In all, the Judges finished with 28 assists on 34 baskets, with Graves-Fulgham picking up half of the helpers. Two other Brandeis players scored in double figures, led by sophomore forward Terrell Hollins (Springfield, Mass.), who had 16, including 12 in the first half. After missing his first three shots, early, Hollins connected on his next six in a row to lead all scorers at the break. Coppens finished with 13 points and pulled down a team-high seven rebounds. As a team, the Judges shot 54% from the floor, while holding Lasell to 37%, as the Lasers scored a season-low.

Lasell (20-9), which saw its 12-game winning streak come to a halt, was paced by junior forward Jose Guitian (Miami, Fla.), who recorded a double-double with 16 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. He had 10 points in the second half. Rookie Corey Godfrey (Camrbidge, Mass.) had 15 points, eight in the first half, and six rebounds, including five on the offensive glass. Senior Jaime Crawford (Coral Springs, Fla.) had 11 points to become the Laser's all-time leading scorer with 1,585 points. He broke the school record on an emphatic dunk 11 minutes into the game.

The Lasers jumped out to an early 8-3 lead just under three minutes in, but a 14-3 Brandeis run over the next six minutes gave Brandeis a 17-11 lead. Rexhepi's first hoop of the game with 11:34 left in the first gave the Judges a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Lasell cut the margin back to two, 17-15, on buckets by Crawford and Guitan, but the Judges answered with by scoring 15 of the next 18 points to push the lead to double figures, 30-20, on a Hollins lay-up. The score bounced between 11 and six the rest of the way, with the Judges enjoying a 43-34 lead at the break. A Guitan fast-break lay-up and a traditional three-point play by Godfrey trimmed the lead to 43-39 1:05 into the second, but Brandeis answered with a 10-4 run, to push the lead to double digits, which they maintained the rest of the way.

With the win, Brandeis will face Bowdoin, 79-49 winners over Curry College, in the second round tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. The Judges lead the all-time series with the Polar Bears, 18-12, but the teams have not met since 1988.