On to the Elite Eight! Judges down RIC, 76-65, in Sweet 16

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- The Brandeis men's basketball team closed the game on a 18-6 run over the final 7:10 of the contest and the Judges defeated Rhode Island College, 76-65, in the Sweet 16 of NCAA tournament. Seniors Kenny Small (Stratford, Conn./Stratford) and Terrell Hollins (Springfield, Mass./Longmeadow) had 20 points each, with Hollins grabbing 16 rebounds. The Judges play No. 2 Williams tomorrow at 7 p.m. for the right to go to the first Final Four in men's basketball history.

In an intense contest that saw four ties and nine lead changes, the Judges had the decisive run to end the game. Brandeis (22-6) trailed at halftime, 34-33, and RIC (22-8) opened the second half by scoring the first five points, going ahead, 39-33, on a Mason Choice (Newport, R.I.) lay-up.

Small responded by scoring seven-straight points on his own, giving the Judges the lead back at 40-39 on a trifecta, his second of the game. Choice answered with a long ball of his own to give the Anchormen a 42-40 edge with 16:35 left. A Hollins free throw sparked 10 unanswered points by the Judges, who took a 51-42 lead on a Vytas Kriskus (Kvedarna, Lithuania/Holderness School) bomb from the corner with 13:43 on the clock.

Not to be outdone in his final collegiate game, Rhode Island College senior Jake Grimes (Providence, R.I.) went in a tear of his own. Over the next four-plus minutes, Grimes scored his team's next 13 points, including three 3-pointers. He got the Anchormen within two points at 55-53 with 10:42 on the clock with a deep ball.

After the Judges rushed a shot on the other end, Grimes launched from deep to try to give RIC the lead back, but Brandeis senior Andre Roberson (Springfield, Mass./Wilbraham & Monson) snatched the rebound out of an opponent's hands. His hustle sparked the Judges, and Kriskus hit from deep to reestablish the five-point lead. Grimes answered with a jumper on the other end, kicking off a run of six-straight points by the Anchormen. Junior Darius Debnam (Dorchester, Mass.) hit a lay-up and two free throws, the last of which gave Rhode Island College the 59-58 lead with 7:10 left.

The Brandeis defense clamped down at that point. A Small jumper gave the Judges the lead for good, and they forced the Anchormen to miss eight of their final 11 shots, closing on the decisive 18-6 run and grabbing eight rebounds to RIC's five in the end game.

Small finished with 15 of his 20 points coming in the second half, when he hit 5-of-6 overall, 1-of-2 from downtown and 4-of-5 from the line. Hollins's 20 points and 16 rebounds marked his 14th double-double of the season and 22nd of his career. He had 11 points and eight boards in the first half, nine and eight in the second. Four of his eight second-half rebounds came on the offensive glass. Kriskus also finished in double figures with 19 points in 27 minutes, hitting 4-of-6 from downtown in the process. Kriskus and Small are now shooting 23-of-33 from 3-point range in the 2010 postseason, or 69.7 percent. Roberson led the team with four steals, while sophomore Tyrone Hughes (Dorchester, Mass./Taft School) had four assists. As a team, Brandeis outrebounded RIC, 40-31, including 23-12 in the second half.

Rhode Island College was paced by Grimes, who matched Small with 15 of his 20 points after the break. Choice was the only other RIC played in double figures with 10 points. Debnam led the Anchormen with eight rebounds, while Antone Gray (Providence, R.I.) had a game-high five assists. Junior Carl Lee (Warwick, R.I.) matched Roberson with four steals. The Anchormen won the turnover battle, forcing Brandeis into 16 while committing just 11, turning it into an 17-8 edge in points off miscues.

With the win, the Judges return to the Elite Eight for the fourth time in school history, joining the 1975, 1978 and 2007 squads, while this marks three-straight years with a Brandeis basketball team in the sectional finals, as the Brandeis women reached this plateau last season. The Class of 2010 earns their 83rd career victory, extending their school record.

BOX SCORE

(photo courtesy David Sheppard-Brick)