SWARTHMORE, Pa. – The Ursinus College men's basketball team threw everything it had at top-seeded Swarthmore in the Centennial Conference semifinals on Friday night.
A rugged effort on both ends, bolstered by never-before-used defensive looks, kept the Bears in contention until well into the second half. But the defending champion Garnet used a raucous home atmosphere and a dominating defense to pull away for a 68-49 victory and a return to the CC championship game. Eleventh-ranked Swarthmore will take on second-seeded Johns Hopkins – a 50-49 winner over Franklin & Marshall – in the final Saturday night.
The Bears' season came to an end with a record of 17-10, their highest win total since the Final Four season in 2008.
Senior Zach Quattro scored a team-high 17 points in his final game, and sophomore Ryan McTamney just missed a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds for Ursinus, which fell victim to a late first-half run by the Garnet and shot just 29.8 percent against the league's stingiest defense.
Reigning CC Player of the Year Cam Wiley led all scorers with 23 points for Swarthmore, which got 11 apiece from Nate Shafer (10 rebounds) and Zac O'Dell.
The Bears came out in a brand-new defense, and the unconventional look gave the high-powered Garnet issues early. Out of rhythm, Swarthmore needed more than three minutes to get on the board, and even though Ursinus had scored only two points in that span, the wrinkle was a success.
After Connor Harkins knocked down a 3 to give the hosts a 5-2 lead, junior Matt Williams took advantage of an assist from a ref, burying a foul line jumper after an errant pass bounced off the official and allowed Eric Williams to keep it in play.
A triple by Jim Lammers and a bucket by Wiley gave the Garnet a 10-4 lead and forced an early timeout from head coach Kevin Small, but McTamney finished with a euro step in transition to put a lid on the Garnet's early charge. After a few more nervy minutes, Wiley banked in a runner and Robbie Walsh finished through contact for a 16-8 Swarthmore lead at the 8:43 mark.
With the Garnet starting to build its lead, another friendly bounce went the Bears' way. McTamney was stripped on a drive but the loose ball flew directly into the corner to a wide-open Eric Williams, who connected on the team's first triple in six attempts. Ryan Ingram answered on the other end for the Garnet before freshman Bruce Edwards soared for an offensive rebound and scored plus one to make it 19-14 with 6:42 to go in the frame.
Senior Remi Janicot gave the Bears a huge stretch of minutes, swatting a Wiley lay-up into the wall behind the basket before forcing a walk from Walsh and splashing a right-wing triple that trimmed Swarthmore's lead to 21-19. Seven straight from the Garnet upped the margin to nine before McTamney backed down his defender and fed classmate Shane Stark for a weak-side finish to stop the bleeding.
After an O'Dell basket, McTamney facilitated again with a kick-out to Quattro for a 3 that made it 30-24. But Wiley answered on the other end with a mid-range jumper and Ingram knocked down a trey off two offensive rebounds as Swarthmore streaked into the half with a 35-24 lead.
Swarthmore extended to a 15-point lead in the first few minutes of the second half, but Quattro swished a transition 3 and McTamney knifed through the lane for a lay-up to get back within ten at 39-29.
The lead wavered between 10 and 12 for several minutes, the Bears unable to close the gap and Swarthmore failing to pull away. After a dunk by Walsh, Quattro cut the deficit back into single digits with a 3 from the deep right corner, and Janicot hit two at the stripe to make it 46-39 with 8:09 remaining.
With the Bears making a push, Yonda dropped in a tough step-back jumper, Wiley scored on the break, and O'Dell hit a short jump hook to push the spread out to 52-39 inside the 6-minute mark. Yonda fed Nate Shafer for a slam and a 57-41 advantage with four minutes left, and that short-circuited Ursinus' comeback hopes for good.
Senior Brian Rafferty finished with four rebounds and an assist in his finale. He ends his career with 456 assists, good for fifth in conference history.
Janicot had five points and four boards to give himself 830 points and 620 boards for his career.