WALTHAM, Mass. – The Brandeis University men's basketball team scored the final eight points of the first half and never trailed again tonight, as the Judges defeated Babson College, 72-65, in the opening round of the New England Big Four Challenge in Red Auerbach Arena. With the win, the Judges improve to 4-2 on the season and advance to tomorrow's title game against Tufts University at 3 p.m. The Beavers fall to 5-4 and will take on Salem State in the consolation game tomorrow at 1 p.m.
After a tight first half that saw three ties and seven lead changes, Babson was ahead, 25-22, after a Nate Amado lay-up with 3:02 to go before the break. After both teams missed 3-pointers on their next possession, Brandeis graduate student Collin Sawyer (New London, Conn./New London) connected from downtown with 1:48 on the clock to tie the game at 25. After a couple of empty possessions, Judge junior Dylan Lien (Northboro, Mass. / Worcester Academy) gave the home team the lead with two free throws. Brandeis got another stop and junior Darret Justice (Haymarket, Va. / Highland School) connected on a corner 3-pointer to give Brandeis a 30-25 lead at the break.
Babson scored four of the first six points of the second half to close within three points early in the stanza at 32-29. Brandeis senior Nolan Hagerty (Yarmouth, Maine/Yarmouth) answered with a lay-up and first-year Toby Harris (Durham, N.C. / Durham Acad.) hit the Judges' first 3-pointer of the half to push the lead back to 37-29, and the Judges were able to keep Babson at bay. Brandeis hit 6-of-14 from 3-point range in the second half, with five different players hitting from beyond the arc, to keep Babson from gaining any serious momentum. The Beavers were within five points on a couple of occasions but never got any closer, as the Judges' lead ballooned to 15 points with just under two minutes left on the clock.
Brandeis had three players score in double figures tonight. Sawyer led the Judges with 18 points, coming on 7-of-17 shooting overall, 3-of-10 from 3-point range and 1-of-3 from the line. Senior Chandler Jones (Springfield, Mass./Springfield Commonwealth Academy) had his best game of the season off the bench, scoring a campaign-high 14 points and grabbing 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the year and the 15th of his career. He also tied with two other players with four assists. Lien was the third player in double-digit scoring with 13 points, 11 coming in the second half. Hagerty led all players with 14 rebounds, nine of which came on the offensive glass – one more than the entire Tufts roster. He also had four assists and three steals. Junior Sam Nassar (Milford, Conn. / Jonathan Law) was the final Judge with four assists, one shy of a career-high. The Judges finished with 16 assists on their 22 baskets. They also matched their season-high of 11 3-pointers, with five players hitting multiple times from beyond the arc – three from Sawyer and two each from Lien, Harris, Justice, and Jones.
Babson received a game-high 20 points from Mitchell Kirsch, who hit 7-of-12 from the field, 2-of-4 from downtown and 4-of-7 from the line. Kirsch scored 18 points in the second half. No other Babson player had more than eight points for the contest. John Gorgol had a team-high seven rebounds, while Kirsch led the team with four assists.
Brandeis will go for its second New England Big Four Challenge title in the last three tournaments and their fifth championship in the 12-year history of the tournament when they meet Tufts tomorrow. The Jumbos rolled past Salem State, 78-52, in today's first semifinal, behind 20 points and eight rebounds off the bench from Bobby Stewart. The Jumbos are in search of their third New England Big Four title, and their first since 2015.