SALEM, Mass. – Despite a career-high-tying 25 points from junior Chandler Jones (Springfield, Mass./Springfield Commonwealth Academy) – including 21 in the second half – the Brandeis University men's basketball team couldn't hang on after erasing a 13-point halftime deficit as they dropped a 68-61 decision to Tufts University in the opening round of the New England Big Four Challenge. The Judges see a three-game winning streak snapped as they fall to 5-3, while the Jumbos improve to 6-1. Brandeis will face tournament host Salem State in tomorrow's consolation round at noon, while Tufts will take on Babson in the title match at 2 p.m.
Tufts established their first-half lead by shooting 48% from the field (14-29) and 50% from 3-point range (6-12), while the Judges were limited to just 31% (9-29) and 20% (2-10), respectively. Sophomore center Nolan Hagerty (Yarmouth, Maine/Yarmouth) led the Judges with six points and two assists, but no Judge had more than two field goals. Carson Cohen led all scorers with seven points for the Jumbos.
Brandeis quickly got back into the contest over the first four minutes of the second half, outscoring Tufts, 13-4, over that span. Jones scored the final nine points of that run, with two trifectas and a traditional three-point play. His second 3-pointer made it 40-36 in favor of the Jumbos with 16:02 remaining.
Jones dialed long distance again midway through the half to get the Judges within three points, 51-48, but Tufts's Casey McLaren answered with a jumper of his own that pushed the lead back to five points with 9:55 on the clock. Both teams went cold, as the game went nearly two-and-a-half minutes without a point scored. Judge junior Lawrence Sabir (Providence, R.I./LaSalle Academy) broke the drought with a lay-up, then stole the ball to feed Jones for a fast-break lay-up that got Brandeis within a point at 53-52 with 7:24 to go.
The Judges got another stop, but couldn't convert, but they finally reclaimed the lead on another and-one situation converted by Jones that made it 57-56 with 4:18 on the clock. The lead changed hands on the next two possessions before Brandeis senior Collin Sawyer (New London, Conn./New London) gave the Judges their largest lead, 61-58, with 3:19 to go. Unfortunately, that was the last point Brandeis would score, as Tufts held them 0-3 with two turnovers the rest of the way. Brennan Morris got the Jumbos within one on a jumper at 3:02, and after a Brandeis miss, 1:01 later, Luke Rogers hit a pair of free throws that gave Tufts the lead for good. Cohen added another lay-up, and the Jumbos hit their last four free throws to supply the final margin.
For the game, Jones led all players with 25 points on 10-of-22 from the field, 3-of-6 from 3-point range and 2-of-3 from the line. He also topped the Judges with six rebounds. Sabir and Hagerty each finished with 10 points. Hagerty had five rebounds and a team-high four assists.
Tufts had a balanced attack, with Rogers leading the Jumbos with 13 points and Cohen and Eric Savage each scoring 11. Rogers also had a game-high 15 rebounds, including seven on the offensive glass. Cohen tied with Brandeis's Hagerty for game-high honors with four assists.