Sawyer nets 21 points, game-winner as Judges edge Emerson, 76-74

Collin Sawyer '20 (photo by Tessa Holleran '21)
Collin Sawyer '20 (photo by Tessa Holleran '21)

WALTHAM, Mass. – Brandeis University senior guard Collin Sawyer (New London, Conn./New London) scored a game-winning lay-up with 1.1 seconds left in regulation tonight to give the Judges a narrow 76-74 victory over visiting Emerson College. It was Brandeis's home opener in Auerbach Arena, as they improve to 2-1 on the season. The Lions fall to 2-2.

Sawyer's game-winning bucket was part of a team-high 21 points on the evening. He hit 8-of-16 from the field, including 4-for-7 from 3-point range, with one free throw, which came on a four-point play that capped an 8-0 run to open the second half.  Four other Judges reached double digits in scoring, tied with 13 points each. Juniors Lawrence Sabir (Providence, R.I./LaSalle Academy) and Chandler Jones (Springfield, Mass./Springfield Commonwealth Academy) each had 13 in the starting lineup, while senior Eric D'Aguanno (Saunderstown, R.I./St. Andrew's School) scored his baker's dozen off the bench. D'Aguanno had two 3-pointers, giving him 199 for his career. He is looking to become the fourth player in Brandeis program history to reach 200 career trifectas. Sabir had a terrific all-around game, with three 3-pointers, five rebounds, six assists that tied for game-high honors, and three steals, also tied for game-best. Sophomore forward Nolan Hagerty (Yarmouth, Maine/Yarmouth) led Brandeis with eight rebounds

Emerson put three starters in double figures in scoring, including two who registered double-doubles. Senior Jack O'Connor led all players with 22 points, thanks to 15-of-16 shooting from the free-throw line, while grabbing 10 rebounds. Sophomore center Jarred Houston added 19 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, while sophomore guard Zach Waterhouse had 11 of his 15 points in the first half. Sophomore Chad DiCenzo led the Lions with three assists, while Waterhouse matched Sabir with three steals.

After Emerson took an early 6-3 lead on an early four-point play by Waterhouse, the Judges looked as though they might blow things open, hitting 10 of their first 11 shots from the field to take a 23-10 lead on D'Aguanno's first 3-pointer with 13:42 on the clock. The Judges extended their hot streak to 17 of their first 24 shots, as a Jones jumper with 5:53 left gave the hosts a 42-21 edge. Brandeis couldn't stay hot for the entire first stanza, as Emerson closed on a 17-4 run, thanks in part to 9-of-10 from the line by O'Connor in that stretch.

Brandeis would regain their magic at the start of the second half, scoring the first eight points, capped by a four-point play by Sawyer that made it 54-38 with just 1:54 gone. A Sabir trifecta pushed the Judge advantage back to 17 when the visitors clawed back into it. They scored the next 10 points of the game to get back within single digits, with the last six coming from Houston that got Emerson within 57-50. Sabir would stem the tide from beyond the arc, but Emerson stayed within shouting distance.

The Lions used another 10-2 run to get to within 62-60 on a steal and layup by DiCenzo with 6:36 remaining. Brandeis answered with a seven of the next nine, pushing the lead back to seven on a Hagerty put-back with 3:45 left that made it 69-62. The teams traded buckets, but a missed front end of a one-and-one followed by a James Beckwith trifecta with 3:16 to go got Emerson within 69-65. An offensive foul on the Judges followed by a tip-in from Waterhouse made it a one-possession game. After Jones responded with a jumper, O'Connor snapped out of a 1-10 slump with a lay-up and a 3-pointer, sandwiched around a D'Aguanno hoop, to get Emerson within one at 73-72 with 1:26 left.

Brandeis couldn't make Emerson pay on their next possession, and though Sabir got a steal on the defensive end, another Brandeis shot was just off the mark.

Jones got it done of the defensive end, drawing an offensive foul on O'Connor near midcourt with 14.1 second on the clock. Forced to foul, the Lions hacked D'Aguanno, who hit one of two with 13.0 remaining to make it 74-72. O'Connor grabbed the rebound on the miss and raced the length of the floor, drawing a foul with 7.5 seconds on the clock. He hit both, setting up Sawyer's heroics. The Judges, without any timeouts, went the length of the court and D'Aguanno drove the lane, but his bounce pass to Hagerty was kicked out by an Emerson player with 2.8 left. Sabir took the ball out from just under the basket, and found a cutting Sawyer who laid it in for the game-winner.

This was the second year in a row Brandeis and Emerson came down to the end, with Corey Sherman '19 defeating the Lions last year in Boston with a 3-pointer with 0.9 seconds left, 75-72.

The Judges will look for their third-straight win on Wednesday night at Suffolk University at 7 p.m. Emerson travels to Division I Hartford Thursday at 11 a.m.