WILLIMANTIC, Conn. -- The sixth-seeded Brandeis men's basketball team took to the road and claimed the third ECAC Division III New England title in program history today defeating top-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University, 65-50. The Judges join the 1974 and 1992 squads with ECAC titles and finish the season with a 19-9 record. Rookie Ben Bartoldus (Hillsborough, N.H./Proctor Acad.) was named tourney MVP.
Brandeis trailed only once in the contest, after Eastern Connecticut senior Broderick Sawyer (Norwalk, Conn.) scored the game's firsts bucket on a hook shot. Brandeis scored the game's next 10 points, with four different players contributing to the run. Rookie forward Youri Dascy (Fall River, Mass./St. Andrews (R.I.) School) bookended the string with a pair of lay-ups off the glass, the last giving Brandeis a 10-2 edge less than 3:30 into the contest.
After the Brandeis offense cooled off a bit, Eastern Connecticut (21-10) responded over the next seven minutes, going on a 10-3 run of their own. Four different Warrior players were involved in cutting into the lead, with sophomore center Chris Robitaille (Canton, Conn.) contributing three points. Robitaille had a chance to tie the game from the line at the 9:29 mark, but hit just one of two as ECSU crept within 13-12.
Brandeis answered with a 3-pointer by rookie guard Derek Retos (No. Attleboro, Mass./Brimmer and May School) that ignited a 9-2 run for the Judges, giving them a 22-14 lead with 6:07 to go. The Judge defense was stellar in the latter stages of the first half, holding ECSU to just two field goals over the final six minutes, as the hosts also shot themselves in the foot by missing four free throws in that span. Brandeis led by as many as 12 points before the break before taking a 32-22 edge into the locker room. Junior Vytas Kriskus (Kvedarna, Lithuania/Holderness (N.H.) School) and Warrior junior Nick Nedwick (Irvington, N.Y.) led all players with seven first-half points, and while many other statistics were even, the Judges shot 52.4% (11-21) from the field and 87.5% from the line (7-8), while ECSU was just 38.1% (8-21) and 45.5% (5-11).
After the Judges came out of the locker room flat from their semifinal win over MCLA the previous evening, it looked like ECSU might catch them again, as the hosts opened the stanza with crisp passing and tight defense to score six of the first nine points. After Nedwick fed Jamie Kohn (Columbia, Conn.) for a back-door lay-up 2:15 into the second, the Brandeis edge was cut to seven at 35-28. In the finals, however, Brandeis was able to bounce back, scoring the game's next six in a row, reestablishing an 11-point lead on an Anthony Trapasso (Sterling, Mass./St. Johns Prep) trifecta and never letting the margin get any lower than nine points the rest of the way.
Trapasso went on to score all of game-high 12 points in the second half, when he hit 4-of-5 overall, 3-of-4 from downtown and his only free throw. Retos finished with 10 points, five in each half, as the only other Brandeis player to score in double figures, but three other Judges had eight – senior Christian Yemga (Yaounde, Cameroon/Proctor Acad.), junior Tyrone Hughes (Dorchester, Mass./Taft School) and Bartoldus – while Kriskus had a fine all-around game off the bench with seven points, a game-high six rebounds and two steals. Hughes led the Judges with four assists. Brandeis owned a 29-23 edge in rebounding, and while the offensive boards were even at eight-all, the Judges outscored the Warriors, 9-3, in second-chance points. Brandeis outshot ECSU for the game, 47.6% (20-42) to 39.1% (18-46).
Bartoldus earned tournament MVP honors by scoring 34 points in the three games (11.3 ppg) to go with 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 13-of-19 shooting (68.4%) and 5-of-8 from beyond the arc (62.5%). With the win, the Judges capture Brandeis's second ECAC crown of 2010-11, along with a men's soccer title in the fall.
Eastern Conn. was paced by Mike Garrow (Terryville, Conn.), who scored nine of his 11 points in the second half, while Nedwick had seven of his nine in the first. Garrow also topped the Warriors with five rebounds. Nedwick matched Hughes with a game-high four assists and added three steals to lead all players