Men race past Rochester, 78-64, with big second half

Vytas Kriskus '12 (photo by SportsPix)

WALTHAM, Mass. – In a game that saw nine ties and seven lead changes in the first 26-plus minutes, the Brandeis University men's basketball team scored eight unanswered points early in the second half, snapping a 37-37 tie to take a key 78-64 University Athletic Association (UAA) win over the visiting University of Rochester in Red Auerbach Arena tonight. With their fifth-straight win, the Judges improve to 8-5 overall, 2-0 in the UAA, while the conference co-favorite Yellowjackets fall to 9-4, 0-2 UAA with their second loss in a row.

      Brandeis trailed by one, 29-28, at halftime, and were down three after UR scored the first hoop of the second. After a number of empty possessions, the Judges tied the game for the sixth time at 31-31 on a trifecta from sophomore guard Ben Bartoldus (Hillsborough, N.H./Proctor Acad.). After a defensive stand, Bartoldus scored again to give the Judges the lead. The teams traded blows, and a pair of Nate Novosel (Lexington, Ky./Lexington Catholic) free throws at the 14:21 mark gave Rochester their last lead at 37-35.

      On the ensuing possession, Brandeis junior reserve guard Jay Freeman (Dorchester, Mass./St. Mark's School) put back a missed 3-pointer, tying the game at 37 and kicking off the key 10-0 run. Senior forward Vytas Kriskus (Kvedarna, Lithuania/Holderness Acad.) snatched a rebound on the next UR possession and went the other way, canning a jumper to give Brandeis the lead for good.

The next three Judge hoops were the direct result of steals, with senior Tyrone Hughes (Dorchester, Mass./Taft School), Kriskus and sophomore Alex Schmidt (Dublin, Ireland/Fork Union (Va.) Military Acad.) each picking the pocket of a Rochester player to push the lead to 45-37 with 11:27 on the clock. UR got a traditional three-point play from junior Rob Reid (Mount Airy, N.C./Phillips Exeter (N.H.) Acad.) on their next possession, but a 10-3 run by the Judges extended the lead to 12 at 55-43 with 8:24 left and Brandeis never let the lead slip below double figures after that. The Judges led by as many as 18 points in the second half as they shot 61.3% (19-31) while holding Rochester to 46.7% (14-30) and outrebounded them by a 19-10 margin. 

      The first half was a back-and forth affair, featuring five ties and four lead changes, with the biggest lead by either team five points. Rochester scored the first two buckets for an early 5-0 lead, while Brandeis was ahead 25-20 with just under four minutes to go in the stanza. UR answered with nine points in a row, seven coming from junior guard John DiBartolomeo (Westport, Conn./Staples), who gave the visitors a 29-25 lead with a 3-pointer with 2:32 left. Brandeis scored the last four points to trim the lead to 29-28 at the break.

      For the game, the Judges put three players in double figures. They were led by Kriskus, who had 15 points on 5-of-12 from the field, 1-of-4 from 3-point range and 4-of-4 from the line. He also grabbed a game-high eight rebounds, finishing two shy of his third double-double of the season. Bartoldus scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half, when he connected on 5-of-6 overall, 2-of-3 from downtown, after missing all three shots from the floor, two beyond the arc in the first. Bartoldus also had two assists, two blocks and two steals.

Junior guard Anthony Trapasso (Sterling, Mass./St. John's Prep) added 11 points off the bench, including seven in the second half. He hit 4-of-5 overall with a trifecta. Hughes had a terrific game as well with nine points and a game-high eight assists.

In a battle of the two top 3-point shooting teams in Division III, NCAA leader Brandeis connected on 44.4% from deep (8-18), thanks to a 5-of-8 performance in the second half, while holding No. 2 Rochester to 33.3% (6-18). They also matched the Yellowjackets' lowest offensive output of the campaign and held a squad that was shooting 51.9% for the season – third-best in Division III - under 44 percent for only the second time at 42.6% (26-61).

Rochester was paced by Novosel, who finished with 15 points, nine coming in the first half. DiBartolomeo added 13 points and a team-high six assists. Novosel and Reid each had five rebounds to top the Yellowjackets. UR forced 15 turnovers while committing only 13, but Brandeis owned a 13-11 edge in points off turnovers.

Both teams return to action on Sunday, when the Judges host fourth-ranked Emory at noon and Rochester travels to NYU for a 1 p.m. game. The Violets upset the Eagles, 89-73, tonight, leaving Brandeis tied with Washington University atop the UAA standings after two games.