March 7, 2009

Men's hoops rally falls just short in NCAA second round, 65-63

LANCASTER, Pa. -- The Brandeis men's basketball team nearly erased a 20-point second-half deficit, getting within one point with the 1:21 left and owning the ball down by two on the final possession, but the Judges couldn't quite climb all the way back, falling to home-standing Franklin and Marshall College, 65-63, in the second round of the NCAA Division III men's basketball tournament. With the loss, Brandeis ends its season at 18-9, and grad student Steve DeLuca (Merrimack, N.H./Merrimack), who scored a game-high 21 points, ends his career ranked fifth on the career scoring list with 1,595 points, as he passed Jim Houston '56 on the career list today.

Brandeis, which never led in the game, faced its biggest deficit at 57-37, with 9:23 remaining. The Judges started the comeback with a 13-1 run over the next 3:13 thanks to full-court pressure. They cut the lead to single digits at 58-50 on a Kenny Small (Stratford, Conn./Stratford) lay-up off an Andre Roberson (Springfield, Mass./Wilbraham & Monson Acad.) steal with 6:10 on the clock. F&M answered with six of the next eight points, going ahead 64-52 with 3:17 left on one-of-two Anthony Brooks free throws.

The Judges' next big run was sparked by a Rich Magee (Burke, Va./Lake Braddock) lay-up with 3:11 left, but it was their 3-point shooting that finally caught fire, as senior Kevin Olson (Rockport, Mass./Rockport), Roberson and DeLuca connected from beyond the arc on three-straight possessions to get the Judges within one, 64-63, with 1:29 remaining. Brandeis got a stop on the next possession as Roberson blocked a shot and corralled the rebound. DeLuca's 18-foot jumper on the other end was just off, and Clay Scovill grabbed the rebound for the Diplomats.

F&M rookie Georgio Milligan was fouled, and hit the first of two free throws with 24.8 seconds left, but missed the second. Magee dove on the floor and grabbed the rebound as the Judges called timeout. Roberson took the ball near midcourt and dribbled around looking for penetration. He misfired from 16 feet out with about four seconds left on the clock. DeLuca grabbed the rebound, but his put-back attempt was off-balance and rimmed off, ending the contest in Franklin and Marshall's favor, as the Judges 26-8 run to close the game fell just short.

DeLuca led all scorers with 21 points on 7-of-22 shooting overall, 3-of-10 from 3-point range and 4-of-4 from the line. He tallied 13 of his points in the second half, including 11 in the final nine minutes of the game. In addition to reaching No. 5 on the all-time scoring list, DeLuca finishes his career as the Judges' all-time leader in games started with 105 and one shy of the record for games played at 106.

Olson was the only other Brandeis player to score in double figures, finishing with 13 points, including eight in the second half. After going 3-for-5 from 3-point range, Olson finishes his season at 58.9% (86-146), the sixth-best percentage in Division III history, while his 86 trifectas this season are the second-highest total in Brandeis lore.

Roberson also had a fine performance with nine points and a game-high eight assists, while Magee led the Judges with six rebounds and a career- and game-high four steals. The Judges converted 16 F&M turnovers into 29 points, including 12 points off seven miscues in the ending push.

After scoring 11 of the first 12 points of the game, the hosts built a 37-24 halftime lead by shooting 61.5% in the first (16-26), including 3-of-5 from 3-point range. James McNally led the Diplomats with 19 points, 13 of which came in the first half when he connected on 6-of-8 from the field. After a seven-point, seven-rebound first half, Mike Baker registered a double-double with 16 points and 13 boards. Milligan stuffed the Franklin and Marshall stat sheet with eight points, six assists and two blocked shots.

F&M at one point had doubled Brandeis on the boards, but finished with a 31-27 rebounding advantage. The Diplomats were able to take advantage of some Brandeis trouble in the paint, as they outscored the Judges 30-18 overall in the post, including 18-8 in the first half, as foul trouble limited Judge inside threats Terrell Hollins (Springfield, Mass./Longmeadow) and Christian Yemga (Yaounde, Cameroon/Proctor Acad.) to just nine minutes apiece before both fouled out.


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