After failing to score double-figures for the first time in his career with eight points in Wesleyan's hard-fought 70-68 setback to SUNY-Purchase in the first round of the Naismith Classic at Springfield, Shasha Brown '13 (#5, photo) shook off the disappointment by scoring 21 points along with nine assists, four steals and two rebounds in carrying the Cardinals past Salve Regina, 88-71, to claim the consolation game Sun., Jan. 3.
Brown's nine assists, a career high, equaled the most by a men's basketball Cardinal over the last 80 games. Jeremy Kaminer '10, who added 12 points in the championship game to go along with 15 the day before, was the last player to hit double-digits for assists with 10 in the opening game of his career vs. Suffolk Nov. 17, 2006. He also had a nine-assist effort vs. Roger Williams last year. For his effort in the Nasmith Classic, Brown earned a spot on the all-tournament team. Wesleyan competed in three tournaments this year with a first-, second- and third-place finish. Brown was tournament MVP once and all-tournament twice.
With Kaminer and Brown each scoring five points during the opening 7:30 of the game vs. Salve, Wesleyan raced out to a 16-3 advantage. Though the Seahawks scored the next nine points to get as close as 16-12, Wesleyan used an 8-2 burst for a 24-14 lead and never looked back, holding a double-figure margin the rest of the way. The Cardinals improved to gap to as many as 20 points (42-22) in the first half, then settled for a 42-27 lead at halftime.
Wesleyan led by as much as 25 (68-43, 13:32 left) on a layup by David Fogel '13, who hit for 12 points in just his fourth game of the season, nearly doubling his seven points scored coming into the contest. Also in double-digits with 10 points was Mike Callaghan '13.
Salve cut the margin to 11 at 68-57 with its strongest run of the game, 14-0, but a Matt Callori '13 three-pointer, a pair of Kaminer free throws and a layup by Brown gave Wesleyan the next seven points and a comfortable 18-point lead with 9:46 remaining. Salve got no closer than 13 the rest of the way.
Wesleyan had its work cut out for it Wed., Jan. 6 in its next start, playing its second Little Three game of the season with a home game vs. Amherst, which is ranked ninth nationally in the current d3hoops.com poll. The last time Amherst visited Middletown, Kaminer hit a 30-footer at the buzzer to propel the Cardinals past the Lord Jeffs, 72-69, a year ago.
Things did not go quite as well for the Cardinals as Amherst escaped with a 81-72 decision this time. Amherst made eight of its first 10 three-pointers in the first half in building a 41-17 lead. Wesleyan narrowed the margin to 16 at halftime (47-31) and to nine early in the second period. The lead stayed in single digits nearly the entire second half and was a little as four on two occasions, the last at 60-56. Kaminer just missed on a three-point try that could have cut the gap to one and Amherst extended the difference to 11 at 69-58. The Cardinals, behind the work of Brown, who collected 26 points on the night, again challenged and trailed just 72-67. It was 77-72 when Brown's three-point attempt rimmed out with about 20 seconds to go. Amherst was steady at the line in the final minute, connecting on seven of eight to hold the Cardinals at bay.
Amherst had a decided edge on the boards, 50-34, but Wesleyan turned the ball over a remarkable three times in the contest while forcing the Lord Jeffs into 16 miscues.
The Cardinals had the weekend off, then played N.Y.U. at home Mon., Jan. 11. The Violets scored the first 13 points of the game, made it a 42-18 leads and settled for a 54-35 edge at the half. After the lead stretched to 30 (69-39), Wesleyan had its best segment in cutting the difference to just 13 with a 33-16 run over a span of 10 minutes. But the Cards could get no closer and NYU closed out the game by scoring 14 of the final 20 points for a 99-78 victory.
Five Cardinals hit double-digits for scoring led by Fogel, who had 17 off the bench. Brown had 15, Derick Beresford '13 had 14, Mendell netted 13 and Callori had 12. Collectively, freshmen accounted for 62 of the Cardinals' 78 points. And the sophomore Mendell had 13 of the remaining 16.
Wesleyan is right back on the court Tues., Jan. 12, hosting Bard.