In their first game since the Swarthmore men’s basketball team picked up their long-awaited second win, the Garnet’s hopes of beginning a winning streak halted with a 77-59 loss to conference-leading Franklin & Marshall on Saturday afternoon.
The victory clinched the top seed in the conference for the Diplomats, giving them home-court advantage throughout the upcoming playoffs.
The Garnet (2-21, 2-14 CC), who shocked Washington College last Wednesday in a home upset, went on the road to play a team who had lost only one game on their court all year.
Despite the 21 points from Will Gates ’13 to lead all scorers, Swarthmore was otherwise flat offensively, with no other player in double digits against F&M’s defense, which has held opponents to the lowest scoring average in the country.
The Dips offense (21-2, 14-2 in conference), by contrast, featured three starters with 12 points or more.
“F&M is a great defensive team,” Gates said. “They basically had Matt Porter guard me tight the whole game, with [guard] Georgio [Milligan] guarding me at times.
“Coach made a few adjustments to get me moving around more this game and get some touches inside which really helped me out.”
F&M guard Georgio Milligan, one of the stars of the Centennial Conference, led the team with a performance that was average only by his standards, putting up 20 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Guard Matt Porter added 12 points and four boards, while big man Hayk Gyokchyan put up 15 points while grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds.
The most accurate shooting offense in the conference, the Dips shot an even 50 percent from the field, while Swarthmore, the least accurate, shot just 32 percent.
The Garnet fell behind early on Saturday, with Gates providing his team’s only points for the first three-and-a-half minutes. By then, it was already 12-3 in favor of F&M, who would go up by as many as twenty-one points during the first half. Swarthmore didn’t do themselves any favors with 16 first-half turnovers (they average 15 per game), with the ball-hawking Dips doing their part with eight first-half steals.
“We really didn’t take care of the ball as well as we needed to,” forward Marc Rogalski ‘12 said. “You take into consideration they’re the number-one defensive team in the country, and they have good guards, but we just did not run our offense as well as we should have. The rushed shots we took and chaotic offense we ran naturally resulted in more turnovers.”
Swarthmore stepped their game up somewhat at the close of the half; an 8-0 run, sparked by four points from guard Jordan Federer ‘14, cut into their deficit, and the team went in at the half trailing 43-27.
Although the second-half surge has been a staple for the Garnet this season, they were unable to make any real headway against the prodigious F&M defense. The Dips never led by fewer than 13 points during the half, with seven and five-point runs turning the game into a runaway victory down the stretch.
With his 21 points on the game, Gates is now averaging 17.6 points per game, good for fourth in the conference. Right above him sits Milligan, with a 17.7 average.
“Although I had to work hard for every point, everyone did a great job of setting screens and running me off dribble handoffs to get me open,” Gates said.
Behind Gates, Rogalski added nine points and led the team with six rebounds. Federer finished with six points, while forward Jordan Martinez ‘13, forward Jay Kober ‘14, center Eugene Prymak ‘13, and guard Karl Barkley ‘15 all had four.
“F&M’s offensive rebounding and ball pressure on defense hurt us the most,” Prymak said. “The fact that we could not seem to get into any offensive rhythm contributed to our loss.”
Even as the Garnet winds down the 2011-12 campaign, the drive to never end a day without getting better persists. In practice and in games, the team continues to strive to live to Head Coach Joe Culley’s proclamation, made several weeks ago in an interview, to “[get] better every day of practice, and to leave the gym a better team than when we came in.”
On Wednesday, Swarthmore hosted McDaniel. Despite leading with seven seconds to play, the Garnet fell to the Green Terror 65-64 when Christopher Cowles hit two free-throws off a Marc Rogalski foul. The heartbreaker drops the Garnet to 2-22 on the year.
Swarthmore will end its season this Saturday at Tarble Pavilion. The annual Alumni Game will be held that morning at 11:30, with the season finale against Haverford scheduled to being at 4:00 p.m. The Fords defeated Swarthmore in a tight contest, 65-62, when they hosted them on January 18.