SWARTHMORE, Pa. – The Ursinus College men's basketball team put up a game effort in its Centennial Conference semifinal at Swarthmore, but the top seed and title favorite lived up to its billing with a scorching shooting night that propelled the Garnet to a 86-66 victory inside an electric Tarble Pavilion.
Swarthmore (21-5) advanced to the conference championship game, where it will face off with third-seeded Dickinson – a 70-64 winner over second-seeded Franklin & Marshall in the first semifinal – for the league crown and the accompanying automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Bidding to become the first five seed in CC history to reach the title game, the Bears' season ended with a 15-12 overall record and the program's first playoff win since 2008.
Senior Matt Knowles led the way with a game-high 22 points in his final game in an Ursinus uniform, while freshman Ryan McTamney notched a new career high with 14. Fellow rookie Shane Stark finished with eight points, five rebounds, and five assists, but the Bears were unable to keep up with a blistering shooting night from the high-powered hosts. Two nights removed from a 78-64 demolition of Johns Hopkins, Ursinus was unable to get the best of another opponent that had beaten it twice during the regular season.
Cam Wiley headlined five Garnet in double figures with 22 points, including several difficult shots in the second half to fend off Ursinus' would-be rallies. Zack Yonda had 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting for Swarthmore, which shot 58.2 percent overall (32 for 55) and 8 for 16 from 3-point range. Zac O'Dell, Henry Cousineau, and Robbie Walsh tallied 11 points apiece for the Garnet, who dominated the glass (46-26) on the way to their second consecutive appearance in the conference final. Walsh was a force in the middle, racking up a game-high ten rebounds for a double-double, while Cousineau supported him with eight from his guard spot.
The Garnet appeared poised to break the game open several times in the first half, but the Bears mostly had the answer when they need it. Trailing 12-3 inside the first five minutes after a Cousineau 3-pointer, Ursinus embarked on a 13-4 run, capped by a right corner triple from Eric Williams off a broken play, to knot the contest at 16 just past the midway point of the period.
A deep trey by Wiley polished off an 8-1 run to help the home side wrest the upper hand back. Later in the half, Jim Lammers buried a left-wing 3-pointer and stepped in front of a pass on the other end, breaking away and setting up Zac O'Dell for a transition bucket that swelled the margin to 35-22 with 3:28 remaining.
Not ready to fold, four consecutive points from Stark and four more from Knowles got Ursinus back within 37-30 before Cousineau connected on a 3-pointer to reclaim a double-digit advantage. A tough drive from Knowles just before the buzzer pulled the Bears back into a single-digit spread at the half at 40-32.
The 3-point line was a major factor in the first frame, with Swarthmore going 6 for 11 from deep.
A short fall-away jumper by Quattro opened the second-half scoring, and Knowles got free on an inbounds play the next trip down, his three-point play slicing the deficit to 41-37 two minutes into the stanza.
Following the theme of the first half, Swarthmore had a mini-run to answer the Bears', as the hosts went back up 46-37. Knowles came back with an NBA-range triple from the top of the key, but the Garnet had three chances at the other end and took advantage with a tip-in from Walsh to restore the eight-point halftime spread at 48-40.
Yonda's twisting baseline drive extended it back to double figures just inside the 15-minute mark, and the Garnet guard cashed in on a Bear giveaway on the ensuing possession with a breakaway lay-in that made it 52-40.
Stark ducked inside for a run-stopping hoop, Wiley swished a difficult fade-away on the other end, and sophomore Zack Muredda got free underneath for an easy lay-up that made it 54-44 before Wiley canned another deep 3-pointer as the Garnet matched their largest lead at 57-44 just shy of the 12-minute mark. A few possessions later, Wiley knifed through the lane for a right-handed scoop shot that granted the Garnet a 15-point bulge.
Cousineau's 3-pointer made it 64-46 with 9:38 to play, but McTamney corralled an offensive rebound and got the put-back plus one to kick-start what the Bears hoped would be their final push. It wasn't to be, as Swarthmore led by as many as 26 down the stretch.