Men’s basketball gets hot, then cold against Ursinus

Forward Will Gates dribbles the ball up the court in the Garnet’s 58-46 loss to McDaniel last night from Tarble Pavilion. The Garnet fell to 1-16 on the season. (Justin Toran-Burrell/The Phoenix)

For one brief moment, the Swarthmore men’s basketball team was playing at that level they know they are capable of reaching.

In the ten minutes after the Garnet began the second half on Saturday trailing Ursinus 39-30, everything finally came together.

Of the 15 shots they took in those ten minutes, 13 of them went in, culminating in a three-pointer from Joe Keedy ’14 that put the Garnet up by seven. A defense that found new life held the visiting Bears to just fifteen points.

For those 10 minutes, the crowd gathered at Clothier field on a weekend afternoon got to see just how dangerous this team, in a season where almost nothing has gone right, can be when the candle is lit beneath them.

And just like that, the flame was extinguished once again.

Despite holding a 61-54 lead with 9:55 to go in the second half, Swarthmore (1-15, 1-8 in conference) fell to Ursinus 75-72, as the Bears held the Garnet to just 1-of-6 shooting in overcoming the seven-point deficit.

Although Swarthmore kept the game close down the stretch with free throws, Ursinus finally overtook them on a jumper from Pat Vasturia with 3:04 to go.

It was a lead the Bears would never relinquish, as the Garnet did not score another field goal until the game’s final seconds.

“Although we came up short, we still felt that we outplayed them and deserved to win,” Jay Kober ’14 said. “They are a playoff team, which gives us confidence down the road.”

Weighted down by 34-percent shooting in the first half, and having made only four of their fifteen three-point attempts, the Garnet went in at halftime trailing by nine. However, in the first ten minutes of the second half, the Garnet rode a string of more high-percentage shots to overtake the Bears and build up a lead behind 61-percent second-half shooting.

“[During halftime], we stressed better ball pressure defensively, making it harder for them to make passes to the big players on their team, and staying more patient with our offense,” Head Coach Joe Culley said.

In the final ten minutes, however, as their lead slowly eroded, the Garnet took four of their six second-half three-points and came up empty each time, allowing the Bears to come from behind and deny them their second win of the season.

Junior forward Will Gates ’13 led Swarthmore with 17 points and four rebounds, making the most of Ursinsus’s aggressive defensive plan by hitting all five of his free-throw attempts. Thirteen of Gates’s 17 points came in the second half, as he became the catalyst for Swarthmore’s hot start out of halftime.

Off the bench, Keedy added eight points and two boards, while senior guard Michael Giannangeli ’12 was the only member of the Garnet with more than two assists (three).

“It was a tough loss, but we played extremely hard and put ourselves in a position to win,” Gates said. “It’s encouraging to see that no one has given up, [and that] we’re still playing hard and working together.”

Ursinus forward Jon Ward led his team with 21 points, while Jesse Krasna recorded the only double-double on either side with twelve points and eleven rebounds. Krasna also led both sides with five assists.

If there does exist a silver lining in the aftermath of the loss to Ursinus, it would be that the most recent defeats have become much more competitive, with this week’s games against Ursinus and Haverford (a 65-62 loss) going down to the final minute.

“I think we really are getting better as a team,” Federer said, echoing the positive outlook of Gates and Kober. “Ursinus was a tough team, but a few plays here and there down the stretch didn’t go our way and that’s what it came down to. I feel like the wins will come if we continue to work hard and push each other in practice.”

Added Coach Culley, “There’s a big emphasis on getting better every day of practice, and to leave the gym a better team than when we came in.”

The Garnet failed to win their second game of the season on Wednesday, when they dropped a home contest to McDaniel by the score of 58-46.

Kober lead the Garnet in scoring with 17 points, and center Matt Sharma added 12 points off the bench. Sharma and Gates both tied for the team lead in rebounds with six each.

Swarthmore’s record now moves to 1-16 on the season.

Swarthmore will now go on the road for two straight games, beginning on Saturday when they take on Gettysburg in another conference matchup. The tip-off is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. The Gettysburg match is the first of seven remaining conference games.

To Gates and his teammates, they are opportunities to show what the Garnet is capable of.

“[There] is a lot of time to prove that we are better than our record shows,” he said. “We’re going to keep playing hard and hopefully come up with a few wins down the stretch.”

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