Derick Beresford '13 (#3, photo insert upper left) made a pair of free throws with :07.5 on the clock to break a 57-57 tie and Wesleyan forced a Connecticut College turnover with :04.1 left, leading to a pair of free throws by Mike Callaghan '13 (#44, main photo) with :02.7 to play as Wesleyan survived a threat from the visiting Camels to escape with a 61-57 victory Sat., Jan. 28. Wesleyan advances to 15-5 on the season, 4-3 in conference action.
Wesleyan trailed for a total of only 1:09 during the contest as Conn had three brief leads and there were seven ties, but the Cardinals, playing without leading scorer Shasha Brown '13, got 20 points and seven rebounds from Callaghan and 12 points and four assists from Beresford to avert the upset. Game honors on the boards went to Glen Thomas '14 with 10. Chris Tugman '15 added eight boards for Wesleyan.
The game was closely contested throughout as the largest lead was seven points, held by Wesleyan three minutes into the second half, 29-22. But a 12-5 Camel run tied the count at 34-34 with 12:10 to play. Wesleyan again pulled ahead by seven, 45-38, with 7:35 on the clock, only to have Conn respond by taking its first lead in about 25 minutes with a three-point play, giving Conn a 49-47 edge. Conn last led, 13-10, with 9:30 remaining in the first half. Wesleyan tied the game, 49-49, on a jumper by Jason Mendell '12 (#34, photo insert upper right), before Mendell added a three-pointer at the 2:20 mark for a 52-49 Cardinal lead. He finished the game with 12 points. Down the stretch, Conn tied the game, 54-54, at the 1:00 mark, and again knotted the count, 57-57, with :15.3 remaining. Beresford was fouled on Wesleyan's next possession, leading the to winning free throws.
Wesleyan, which had dropped three of the last four meetings vs. Conn despite holding a decided 36-21 lead in the series, was back on the court Wed., Feb. 1 hosting in-state non-conference foe Eastern Connecticut. In another down-to-the-wire affair, Wesleyan outlasted the 16-4 Warriors by a 66-65 count.
It was the third one-point victory for the Cardinals in their last five home contests this season. The Cardinals, who led most of the way and for a span of more than 20 minutes, found themselves trailing for the first time in the second half with 3:06 to play as the Warriors grabbed a 61-60 lead. Wesleyan had overcome a 24-20 deficit with a 14-2 run near the end of the first half to take a 34-26 lead, equalling the largest margin in the contest. The halftime score was 34-29 in Wesleyan's favor.
The Cardinals again opened up an eight point lead, 41-33, with 15:53 to go and held the lead until the 3:06 mark though Eastern had cut the gap to 51-50 on a three-pointer with 7:30 on the clock. Wesleyan then scored on four of its next five possession, the final three all on baskets by Callaghan, who led the Cardinals with 20 points, for a 60-56 edge. But the Warriors got the next three points to make it 60-59 before a Cardinal miss and Eastern layup ended Wesleyan's 21:36 stretch with the lead.
Callaghan then buried a pair of free throws at 2:39 to regain the lead for Wesleyan, 62-61. A pair of charity-stripers at 2:10 gave the lead back to the Warriors, 63-62. Each team missed a scoring chance before Callaghan hit a jumper at :56.8 for a 64-63 Wesleyan advantage. Again Eastern countered at :46.3 for a 65-64 margin. When Brown, who was back in the lineup and scored 14 points, missed his jumper, Thomas (eight points) got the offensive board, his sixth rebound of the game, and was fouled. He sank both free throws at :32.2 for the final points of the game. Callaghan then blocked an Eastern jumper and Greg St. Jean '13 grabbed the defensive board for Wesleyan with :11.5 left and called timeout. Wesleyan inbounded the ball to Callaghan, who was immediately fouled, but missed the front end of a one-and-one with :10.5 to go. Eastern got the ball to midcourt and called timeout with :06.4 left. The Warriors got off a final trey attempt from the right side but the ball bounced off the rim and Brown claimed the "D" board for Wesleyan as the final horn sounded.
Wesleyan now has a 14-10 edge in the overall series vs. Eastern and won its second straight game over Eastern by the identical 66-65 count with last year's win coming in Willimantic. Beresford also had double-digit scoring for Wesleyan with 11. Wesleyan has posted the greatest seasonal win total by the team in 21 years with 16, two shy of the all-time record for victories in a season set by the 1990-91 squad (18-6).
Wesleyan hosts NESCAC rival Hamilton in its next outing Sun., Jan. 5. The 2 p.m. game will be webcast and can be viewed by clicking < here >.
(photos courtesy of SteveMcLaughlinPhotography.com)