Men rally but can't hang on in UAA road opener at CMU, 61-56

Jordan Cooper '18 (photo by Sportspix/Mike Broglio)
Jordan Cooper '18 (photo by Sportspix/Mike Broglio)

PITTSBURGH, Pa. -- The Brandeis men's basketball team erased an eight-point deficit early in the second half, but the Judges couldn't hang on, as a four-minute-plus dry spell at the end of the game cost them in a 61-56 University Athletic Association (UAA) loss at Carnegie Mellon tonight. The Judges fall to 6-7 overall on the season, 1-1 in the UAA. CMU improves to 10-3, 1-1 UAA. 

Brandeis put two players in double figures. Rookie forward Jordan Cooper (Weston, Fla./Sagemont School) topped the Judges with 17 points on 7-of-14 from the floor with a 3-pointer, and 2-of-2 from the line. Sophomore Robinson Vilmont (Cambridge, Mass./Wilbraham and Monson Acad.) added 16 points, connecting on 5-of-9 overall, including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. He was 2-of-5 from the line. Cooper and classmate KJ Baptiste (Onset, Mass./Brimmer and May Acad.) tied for team-high honors with five rebounds, while Vilmont and junior Colby Smith (No. Andover, Mass./No. Andover) each had two assists. 

The Judges had a season-high 13 steals, including four from sophomore John Powell (Ashland, Mass./Brimmer and May Acad.), converting 20 CMU turnovers into 17 points, while allowing just 12 points off of 13 turnovers.

CMU had a game-high 19 points form Seth Cordts, who hit 6-of-12 overall and matched Vilmont with 4-of-5 trifectas. Jack Serbin just missed a double-double with 12 points and game-high nine rebounds. Jason Sebak led the Tartans with eight assists. CMU owned the boards, 33-27, and outscored Brandeis, 21-6, in bench points. The hosts shot 48% overall (19-40), including 56% from downtown (9-16), while holding Brandeis to 36% overall (18-50) and 41% from long range (7-17).

Carnegie Mellon never trailed in the first half, with Cordts and Serbin opening the game with 3-pointers. The Tartans were ahead by as many as 11 points at 33-22 with 4:40 to go in the first, but the Judges scored eight in a row, including 3-pointers by Vilmont and sophomore Samuel Dowden (Andover, Mass./Andover), that made it 33-30 with 1:48 to go. The Judges could have gotten closer, but CMU's Ryan Maha hit a late trifecta that made it 36-30 in favor of the hosts at the break.

Buckets by Cooper and sophomore Tim Reale (Mason, Ohio/St. Andrews School) early in the second half got the lead down to two at 36-34, but Serbin connected from downtown again to keep the visitors at bay. Brandeis climbed to within one at 39-38 on Cooper's 3-pointer, but CMU answered again. The Judges finally took their first lead of the game with just over 12 minutes remaining, after Smith scored on a lay-up and Cooper converted two free throws following an offensive rebound, making it 47-46 with 12:06 remaining. 

Cordts hit a foul shot at exactly the midway point of the second half to make it a 47-47 tie. Powell answered with two free throws, and a Vilmont steal and lay-up at the 8:42 mark made it a 51-47 lead for the Judges. Carnegie Mellon's Joseph Cossins answered with a traditional three-point play to get the Tartans back within one, while a Serbin jumper gave the lead back to the home team. 

Vilmont hit one of two from the line to tie it at 52-52 with 6:27 to go. Smith did the same at the 5:00 mark to push the Judges ahead by one. Kevin Stursburg hit a floater on the next possession to put the lead back in CMU's hands. Vilmont responded from well beyond the arc at the 4:20 mark, giving the Judges a 56-54 edge.

Those would the the final points scored by Brandeis. Cordts responded with a lay-up to tie the game with 3:49 to go.  After the Judges had a chance to get the lead back, Cordts hit what proved to be the game-winning bucket, a driving lay-up through traffic that bounced around the glass and rim before dropping at the 2:13 mark. The Judges had several chances to get back even, but a missed shot, an offensive foul and a late blocked shot by Serbin after the shot clock had been turned off thwarted their efforts. 

Brandeis will return to action on Sunday at noon when they travel to Case Western Reserve for another UAA showdown. CMU will host NYU at the same time.