PHILADELPHIA – Behind an ever-improving defense and a productive performances from a pair of rookies, the Ursinus College men's basketball team handled Gettysburg, 63-50, in the Centennial Conference's showcase event at the Palestra on Sunday.
Freshman Bruce Edwards scored all 11 of his points in the first half, and classmate George Gordon put up career highs of nine points and seven rebounds – also netting all of his markers before halftime – to give the Bears a massive lift off the bench on a day when they experienced some uncharacteristic shooting struggles. Despite shooting just 34.3 percent from the field, Ursinus dominated in the paint (26-10), off turnovers (23-9), and on second chances (16-0) to secure its fifth consecutive victory.
Junior Eric Williams Jr. paced the Bears (10-5, 6-2) with 14 points, and sophomore Shane Stark wound up just short of a triple-double with nine points, ten boards, and eight steals. Stark's eight swipes are believed to be a school record.
Playing in Penn's historic arena for the second time in three years, the Bears got off to a slow start offensively and trailed 14-9 nine minutes into the contest. But Gordon stoked a quick 10-0 run with a basket inside and a tip-in, and Eric Williams capped it with a 3-pointer.
Gordon's activity paid off later in the half, as he batted around an offensive rebound that eventually found its way into the hands of sophomore Ryan McTamney, who scored plus a foul to make it 26-21 at the 5:06 mark of the first. Edwards drained a deep two through contact and converted the three-point play, Stark banked in a jump hook, and senior Zach Quattro and Eric Williams sandwiched 3's from the same spot in the right corner around a Bullets trey to open up a 37-26 lead with 1:44 to go.
Ursinus stole some momentum heading into the half, when the teams traded open-court turnovers. Senior Brian Rafferty came up with the loose ball and found a cutting Edwards for a three-point play with 8.7 ticks left as the Bears went into halftime ahead 42-31.
Edwards (11) and Gordon (9) combined for nearly half of Ursinus' output in the opening stanza, with Gordon going 4 for 5 from the floor to help the Red and Old Gold own an 18-6 advantage in the paint. Eric Williams hit a pair of 3-pointers and all three of his free throws for nine points of his own. Both teams committed nine turnovers, but Ursinus turned Gettysburg's into 14 points and collected an 11-0 advantage in second-chance points.
Eric Williams gave Ursinus a 14-point lead with a 3 on the first possession of the second half. Stark connected on back-to-back short jumpers, then stepped in front of a Bullets pass to set up an Eric Williams put-back for a 51-35 advantage with 17:27 to play.
The Bears held a lead as large as 18 twice in the next several minutes, but missed their next seven field goals to allow Gettysburg (4-11, 2-6) back within 58-45. McTamney ended the drought with a twisting left-handed lay-up before a Bullets 3 made it 60-48 at the 7:16 mark, and the teams combined for just five points from there.
Gettysburg also shot 34 percent for the day, but due to the Bears' dominance on the glass, only got off 50 shots to Ursinus' 70. Ursinus had a 47-37 rebounding edge and snagged 18 offensive rebounds to just six for the opponent. The Bullets were just 6 for 23 (26.1 percent) from 3-point range.
In spite of a 25.7-percent shooting slog in the second half, Ursinus never allowed the Bullets back into single digits thanks to a swarming defense that produced 13 steals and limited the Orange and Blue to 28.0 percent from the floor. Stark had the lion's share of the Bears' steals, and Eric Williams chipped in three of his own.
The men's basketball team looks to continue its winning ways at home against Muhlenberg on Wednesday, January 17.