SWARTHMORE, Pa. – Despite a stalwart defensive performance, the Ursinus College men's basketball team was unable to overcome its own offensive struggles in a 61-53 Centennial Conference setback at No. 23 Swarthmore on Wednesday night.
Senior Eric Williams Jr. led all scorers with 21 points and sophomore George Gordon chipped in 12 for the Bears (4-4, 2-2), who held the prolific Garnet to a frigid 5-for-33 (15.2 percent) from 3-point range and 34.9 percent overall in a rematch of last year's conference semifinal. Swarthmore, the CC leader in a number of defensive categories, used its own lockdown capabilities to snap a two-game skid in an unexpectedly low-scoring affair between two of the league's top three scoring attacks.
Williams gave the Bears their largest lead of the night at 27-24 on a second-chance lay-up on the first possession of the second half, capping an extended 16-3 spurt spanning intermission. But Swarthmore, which shot 1-for-13 during that stretch, took the advantage back for good on Nate Shafer's basket at the 16:37 mark. The margin fluctuated between one and seven points for almost ten minutes until Zac O'Dell made it 50-39 on two free throws with 6:45 remaining.
Undaunted, the Bears cut it to four on a 9-4 run featuring five points from sophomore Lucas Olshevski and got as close as 54-51 when Williams buried a 3 with 1:40 left on the second-half clock. O'Dell snuck inside for a lay-in on the ensuing possession and Ursinus misfired on the other end, and Swarthmore was able to hold on with free throws down the stretch.
The Garnet relied on their balance, as seven of the eight players who competed scored between seven and 11 points. O'Dell finished with nine points and 11 rebounds, while Cam Wiley had 11 points, seven rebounds, and four assists and Colin Shaw posted ten markers off the bench.
Williams was 7-for-17 from the field for the Bears, while Gordon hit on 6-of-14 and added six rebounds.
The Bears trailed for all but three seconds in the first half and found themselves mired in a 10-point hole at the 8:11 mark of the frame. But the visitors turned to their defense to constrict the Garnet's high-powered arsenal, holding the hosts to just three points – a triple by George Visconti with just over a minute left – over the remainder of the half.
While Swarthmore continued to misfire, Ursinus finally found a foothold. Eric Williams drained a triple and Gordon dunked a feed from senior Matt Williams to halve the deficit. Gordon's lay-up cut it to three before three free throws from junior Ryan McTamney tied the game at 21 with 3:50 left in the first half. Visconti's 3 made it 24-21, but freshman Ryan Hughes' basket in the closing seconds of the period sent the Bears into the break with a 25-24 edge.
Ursinus held its own on the glass with the CC's top rebounding team, losing that battle by a tight 46-40 margin. Each team committed only five turnovers, but the Garnet took full advantage in turning those miscues into ten points; the Bears were unable to score off a turnover.
Swarthmore – the CC leader in scoring defense (59.0 PPG), field-goal percentage defense (39.1) and 3-point percentage defense (24.6) – limited Ursinus to a 4-of-15 performance from beyond the arc.
The men's basketball team plays its final CC game of 2018 on Saturday, when the Bears head to the Battlefield for a 2 p.m. meeting with Gettysburg.