The Swarthmore men’s basketball team came oh-so-close to winning their first game of the season against Ursinus on Saturday. Unfortunately, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, and the Garnet fell 82-79 in overtime. With the loss, Swarthmore fell to 0-6, 0-3 in Centennial Conference play.
The Garnet came out swinging against the Bears (3-3, 2-1 CC), who look to be, according to Jay Kober ’14, one of the top teams in the Centennial Conference: “We know that Ursinus is one of the top teams in the league, they’ve nearly knocked off a few nationally ranked teams [like then-#4 Middlebury].” Thanks to a solid all-around performance, Swarthmore found itself up by as much as 12 points in the first half, and led 33-29 at halftime.
Entering the second half, the Garnet extended their lead again, but the Bears clawed their way back into the game. After some back-and-forth play over the last few minutes of regulation, Swarthmore was down by two with just nine seconds left. The confident Garnet did not back down though, and Kober came up with a running layup at the last seconds. After Ursinus missed a potential buzzer-beater, the game went to overtime.
In overtime, both teams struggled offensively, but Ursinus slowly pulled away to take a 76-71 lead with 1:11 remaining. The margin proved to be too large for the Garnet to catch up, as the Bears made their foul shots down the stretch to ice the game.
It was an all-around team effort, with five players scoring in double digits. Kober led the way with 23 points, while Karl Barkley ’15 (16 points), Jordan Federer ’14 (13 points) and Will Gates ’13 (11 points) also lit up the scoreboard.
Joe Keedy ’14 has yet to miss a beat since his transition from soccer season to basketball season, as he recorded his first career double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. He said that the switch has not been nearly as easy as it looks. “Coach Kosmalski and Coach McShea brought in a whole new system this season. I missed preseason so I’ve had a pretty steep learning curve to catch up. The team and coaches have been very helpful through the process.”
The close loss was not cause for celebration, according to Keedy. “The team was disappointed in the final result against Ursinus.” But, he added, there were positive signs from the game. “We are starting to see some dividends from our hard work. Everyone has bought into the system and we are confident we will have a lot of success this year.”
There are some hopeful signs. So far this year, the Garnet have consistently shot over 40% from the field in games–a number the team has struggled to reach recently. Overall though, the team has a ways to go.
To get there, the whole team has work to do as the semester ends, though. While they have been playing solidly, Kober said the Garnet need to execute better late in games. “We just need to work on closing out opponents when we have leads late in games.” For Kober, this means working hard throughout the coming weeks: “That comes from competing hard every day in practice and fully buying in to the system that coach has put in place for us to be successful.”
Kober said that based on the way the team is playing, “We can play with anyone.” That may be true, but that means that the next step is to beat someone. After last night’s late game against similarly winless Washington, their next chance comes on Saturday when they travel to take on Gettysburg. The next home game is next Wednesday, December 12, against Delaware Valley. Tip-off from Tarble Pavilion is at 7 p.m.