Judges outlast Jumbos, 108-102, in 5OTs to win New England Big Four Classic

New England Big Four Champions! (Photo by Cayla Fernandes)
New England Big Four Champions! (Photo by Cayla Fernandes)

WALTHAM, Mass. – In the championship game of the New England Big Four Challenge today, the Brandeis University men's basketball team won an epic battle with rival Tufts, as the Judges defeated the Jumbos, 108-102, in five overtimes, marking the longest game in Brandeis history. With the win, the Judges improve to 5-2 on the season, while the Jumbos fall to 2-6. This marks Brandeis's fifth New England Big Four Challenge title, most of any of the four teams.

In a game chock full of drama, Brandeis senior Chandler Jones (Springfield, Mass./Springfield Commonwealth Academy) was the star for the home team. He scored 23 of his team-high 26 points in the second half and in the overtimes, including five each in the second and fourth extra sessions. He also led the team with 16 rebounds – eight on the offensive glass – and five assists, earning tournament MVP honors in the process. In addition, Jones became the 35th 1,000-point scorer in Brandeis history with a dramatic 3-pointer in the third overtime that tied the game at 85-85 with 13 seconds left on the clock after bouncing high off the back of the rim and then falling through the hoop.

Brandeis graduate student Collin Sawyer (New London, Conn./New London) also earned All-Tournament honors, finishing with 25 points behind five 3-pointers. Rookie Toby Harris (Durham, N.C. / Durham Acad.) set a new career-high with 17 points, while senior Nolan Hagerty (Yarmouth, Maine/Yarmouth) registered his second double-double of the season and sixth of his career with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Also of note were junior Dylan Lien (Northborough, Mass./Worcester Academy) and senior Sam Nassar (Milford, Conn. / Jonathan Law), who played 58 of a possible 65 minutes. Jones (49 minutes) and Sawyer (48 minutes) also played nearly an entire additional quarter of basketball.

The Judges' triumph overshadowed a terrific All-Tournament performance from Tufts junior Dylan Thoerner, who led all players with 34 points in 47 minutes of action. Thoerner hit the final two free throws with two minutes to go in the first overtime, then connected on a late 3-pointer with 18 seconds to go in OT2 to knot the game at 76. Thoerner was 8-of-14 from the field, 2-of-5 from 3-point range and a remarkable 16-of-16 from the free-throw line, including 8-of-8 in the second half, when he scored 17 of his 34 points as the Jumbos overcame an eight-point deficit.

Four other Jumbos scored in double digits, as Tyler Aronson had 14 points, Bobby Stewart scored 13 and grabbed 16 rebounds off the bench, and Carson Cohen and Brennan Morris each had 11 points. Cohen also grabbed 10 rebounds for the Jumbos' second double-double of the game, while leading the visitors with four assists.

Unsurprisingly for a game that went five overtime periods, it featured 18 ties and seven lead changes. It didn't look that way in the first half, however, as Brandeis jumped out to leads of 12-0 and 18-1. The latter lead came at the midway point of the first half, and Tufts answered in the game's second 10 minutes. They held the Judges without a field goal for nearly seven minutes as they clawed back into the game, scoring the final four points to close within 25-21 at halftime. Sawyer and Thoerner each scored six points in the first half to lead their respective teams.

A quick 5-1 spurt to start the second half gave Brandeis some breathing room, but Tufts stayed within shooting distance and eventually took their first lead at 43-40 on a Khai Champion 3-pointer with 8:52 on the clock. Sawyer answered on the other end, sparking a 7-0 run. The Judges eventually went up by a 51-45 margin with 3:30 left in regulation on another Sawyer bucket. The Brandeis advantage was eight points with 1:11 to go, and still at six at 59-53 when Lien hit two free throws with 26 seconds on the clock. Thoerner quickly converted a traditional three-point play to cut the Tufts deficit in half. After Sawyer made two free throws on Brandeis's next possession, Thoerner drew a foul on a shot beyond the arc with six seconds to go. He hit all three shots to get Tufts within 61-59, setting up a dramatic finish to regulation. With three seconds to go, Jones' inbounds pass was picked off by Champion. He fed the ball to Brennan Morris, and though Jones blocked Morris's first shot, Morris recovered the rebound and got his second shot off just in time to beat the buzzer and force the extra time, 61-61.

The first OT was the least dramatic, as Thoerner's two free throws with 2:04 on the clock were the final points of the period, with both teams playing excellent defense. Brandeis had the largest lead in any extra session before the last in the second OT at five points. The Judges had a chance to put it away from the free-throw line with 21 seconds to go, but missed the second of two shots, and Thoerner answered with his trifecta to tie things up at 76-76.

The Judges again had a two-possession lead in the third OT after a Harris 3-pointer with 3:16 on the clock made it 82-78, but field goals from Aronson and Thoerner and an Aronson trifecta gave the visitors an 85-82 with 37 seconds on the clock. That set up Jones's dramatic milestone 3-pointer that forced OT number four.

Brandeis again looked to have the early advantage, as Jones answered the Jumbos' early bucket with a three-point play of his own. The Judges had a couple of three-point leads, but Tufts' Morris connected from the right corner with 21 seconds to go forcing the fifth OT session. After Cohen made a lay-up to open the scoring in OT5, Harris answered with his second 3-pointer of the game. Tufts' Champion answered with one-of-two from the line, but Harris drew a foul on a trifecta and nailed all three foul shots to put the Judges over the century mark in scoring at 100-97. The Judges got a stop on the next Jumbo possession and hit enough free throws down the stretch to hang on for the win.

Earlier in the day, the consolation game saw another overtime contest, as Babson fended off Salem State, 82-80. The Beavers got 21 points each from All-Tournament selection Kieran Dorney and Colin Bradanese, offsetting a game-high 27 from Conner Byrne, who also earned an All-Tournament accolade. Dorney (21 rebounds, 5 assists) and Byrne (19 rebounds, 4 blocked shots) both stuffed the stat sheet for their teams. Bradanese had 14 of his 21 points in the second half, including the game-tying 3-pointer with 18 seconds left in regulation.

Brandeis returns to action on Tuesday evening with a game against another local rival, Lasell, at 7:30 p.m.