Men's hoops fends off UMass Dartmouth, 65-60

WALTHAM, Mass. –  The Brandeis University men's basketball team led nearly wire-to-wire tonight by fending off a late charge from visiting UMass Dartmouth as the Judges prevailed, 65-60, in a non-conference contest in Red Auerbach Arena. The Judges improve to 2-1, while the Corsairs fall to 2-2.

Brandeis never trailed after answering the first bucket. They hit five 3-pointers and outscored UMD 12-0 in points off turnovers in the first half to take a 37-22 lead. After opening the second half on a 7-4 run, they took their biggest lead of the night, 44-26, on a Robinson Vilmont (Cambridge, Mass./Wilbraham and Monson) trifecta at the 16:30 mark.

The lead still stood at 18 after a Collin Sawyer (New London, Conn./New London) three-ball just under seven minutes into the period that made it 49-31. UMD answered with a 12-4 run over the next seven-minute chunk, however, getting to within 10 on an Abi Akanni jumper. After Chris Mendes  got the visitors to within eight, Brandeis junior Jordan Cooper (Sagemont School) answered the next two buckets with free throws, making it 57-47 with 5:24 left.

After the Corsairs' Josh Nelson connected on a floating jumper on the next possession, the teams traded empty possessions for the next three minutes. UMD's Nick Portelance broke the stalemate with a fast-break lay-up and a tip-in that got the visitors within four points with 1:41 to go. He was fouled on the last bucket and converted the and-one to make it a one-possession game at 57-54.

The Judges broke the ensuing UMD press, but missed a lay-up, giving the visitors a chance to tie the game. Judge junior Latye Workman (Brooklyn, N.Y./Bedford Academy) forced a jump ball with the possession  arrow favoring Brandeis on the next possession, and after two timeouts to try to escape pressure, Cooper found Workman open for a dunk to make it a five-point game, 59-54, with 57 seconds left.

Mendes got the visitors within 59-57 with 30 seconds remaining with a quick 3-pointer, but Vilmont scored on a feed from Workman to push the edge back to four and Brandeis salted the game away at the free throw line.

Brandeis was paced by senior Tim Reale (Mason, Ohio/St. Andrews, R.I., School) who scored 10 of his team-high 12 points in the first half, and Cooper, who had eight of his 12 in the second. Vilmont and Workman each stuffed the stat sheet: Vilmont finished with nine points, seven rebounds and a season-high six assists, while Workman had a game- and career-high eight rebounds (four offensive) to go with a career-high six points and three steals. Sawyer finished with nine points as well, hitting 3-of-5 from 3-point range.

The Judges won the game at the free-throw line, outscoring the Corsairs, 18-8, despite shooting just two more attempts. Brandeis hit 90 percent to UMD's 44 percent from the charity stripe. The visitors outshot Brandeis, 46% (24-52) to 36% (20-56) from the field, including 52% (16-31) to 32% (8-25) in the second half as they made their comeback. Rebounding was even at 34-34.

UMass Dartmouth was led by Mendes, who scored all of his team-high 12 points in the second half. Jon Robinson added nine points and Portelance had eight points and a team-high seven rebounds. Mendes and Robinson also tied for team-high honors with four assists each.

Brandeis returns to action on Friday evening when they host third-ranked Tufts University in the New England Big Four Challenge at 7:30 p.m.