BALTIMORE, Md. – Locked in a nip-and-tuck tussle at Johns Hopkins, the normally high-powered Ursinus College men's basketball team turned to its defense to nail down a hard-fought Centennial Conference victory.
Despite shooting 50.0 percent from the field, the Bears struggled from long range and needed every bit of defensive mettle – and a big day from its bench – to survive with a 66-64 triumph and snap an eight-game regular-season losing streak to the Blue Jays.
Freshman Bruce Edwards came off the bench to score 15 points – one more than his career total coming into the day – and produced a critical steal and free throw in the final minute. Senior Remi Janicot chipped in 13 points in another rousing reserve outing, joining Edwards as the only two players in double figures for Ursinus.
The Bears (7-5, 3-2) were ranked eighth in the CC in scoring defense and ninth in 3-point defense, but held Johns Hopkins well below its season averages in both categories to move into a tie with the Blue Jays for fourth in the conference standings.
Ursinus invaded Baltimore with fond memories of its last trip there, a 78-64 CC playoff rout last February, and made some new ones with its best defensive performance of the year. The Blue Jays (9-3, 3-2) were second in the CC in 3-point percentage (40.0) and 3-pointers per game (9.8), but went a measly 6 for 26 (23.1 percent) from long range and shot just 38.1 percent overall.
The Bears fell behind 14-7 in the first five minutes and change after a bucket by Harry O'Neill, who led Hopkins with 16 points in just 11 minutes off the bench. Ursinus took its first lead at 25-23 on a pair of Edwards free throws, and the rookie's last-second lay-in handed the visitors a 30-27 edge at the break.
Its lead down to 34-33 early in the second, Ursinus went on an 8-0 spurt with five points from sophomore Ryan McTamney and a three-point play by Janicot to go back up by nine. But back came the Blue Jays, who regained the upper hand at 51-49 after a Jesse Flannery triple with 10:54 remaining.
The lead changed hands several times down the stretch as the teams settled into a grind-it-out struggle. Knotted at 62, McTamney sent in a clutch bucket with 55 seconds to play, elevating through contact to sink a challenged paint jumper and give the Bears the advantage for good. Ursinus responded with a suffocating defensive possession, eventually forcing a turnover that resulted in a foul and a free throw by Edwards to make it 65-62.
With the Blue Jays hunting a tying 3, the Bears refused to allow them a clean look, and Ursinus was unharmed by Joey Kern's driving bucket with 2.8 ticks showing. Hopkins gave a foul and Janicot sank the first free throw for the final margin; his second was no good, but the Blue Jays' heave from just inside midcourt was short.
Edwards (5-for-8), Janicot (4-for-6), and junior Zack Muredda (3-for-3) were a combined 12 for 17 from the floor, helping Ursinus shoot an even 50.0 percent against the CC leader in scoring defense, field-goal defense, and 3-point defense. Ursinus got 38 points from its reserves to just 23 for Johns Hopkins to help offset an uncharacteristic poor performance from the 3-point line; the Bears, the top 3-point shooting team in the league, were just 3 for 15 from beyond the arc.
McTamney hit all five of his free throws to score nine points, while senior Zach Quattro added eight and sophomore Shane Stark had six to go with eight boards. McTamney had a crucial offensive rebound in the closing minutes, hauling in a miss and getting fouled before sinking two freebies for a 62-all deadlock with 1:56 to go.
The men's basketball team will entertain Washington College on Tuesday.