COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. – The Ursinus College men's basketball team made things interesting after facing a severe uphill climb but ultimately fell to Centennial Conference leader Johns Hopkins, 66-57, at Helfferich Hall.
With a shot at a share of the CC lead with a victory, the Bears (7-7, 4-3) faced an 18-point deficit at halftime (36-18) and were trailing by as many as 20 points in the early minutes of the second half. Ursinus didn't give up, instead going on a 13-1 run in the guts of the second half to get within six points at 55-49 with five minutes left. But the Blue Jays made enough plays down the stretch to hang on and win their sixth straight inside Helfferich Hall.
Triggering the much-needed flurry, the Bears came up with several defensive stops against the sharp-shooting Blue Jays. Johns Hopkins (9-5, 6-1) went scoreless for five minutes from the 10:28 to 5:17 marks of the second half.
Contributing to the long drought, the Blue Jays were forced into 13 second-half turnovers (21 overall) by the Bears' tenacious defense, led by senior Zack Muredda. The point guard plucked away seven steals, one shy of junior Shane Stark's record-setting mark last season.
Muredda helped ignite the burst to close in on the Blue Jays with several double-team pickpockets. Ursinus protected the ball in the second half, committing just three turnovers after handing it over 14 times in the first frame.
The Bears seemed to come to life after freshman Ryan Hughes dove on the floor to get a loose ball then dished it off while on the hardwood to sophomore Lucas Olshevski to start his individual run of three straight buckets. Olshevski chipped in 10 points in 18 minutes of work.
Olshevski then made two more buckets, one coming from his own steal and fast-break drive to the rim to get the Bears within 10 points. Ursinus cut the deficit to 54-47 with six minutes left when senior Eric Williams Jr. then hit his only 3 of the night to extend his consecutive games streak with a triple to 33. Williams paced the Bears with 15 points.
Hughes dropped in a bucket in the lane to get the Bears to their closest point of the second half at 55-49 with five minutes remaining. Ursinus had a chance to pull within three, but misfired on a triple.
Johns Hopkins responded with a pair of free throws and a layup by Daniel Vila to pull away with a 10-point edge. Vila posted a double-double with 15 points and 11 boards, giving the Blue Jays an added boost.
Along with Vila, the Blue Jays received a game-high 26 points from Michael Gardner with 16 coming in the first half. Gardner picked up the offensive load with five 3's on the night.
In a choppy start to the game with numerous turnovers and no real offensive rhythm, the Blue Jays doubled up the Bears at halftime, 36-18. Johns Hopkins closed the half on a 22-4 run after the game was tied 14-14 with almost 10:56 to go in the first half.
The Bears were held off the board for more than six minutes from 10:56 to 4:39. Williams hit a step back jumper from the corner to tie the game at 14-14 then made a long two to end the Bears' cold streak with 4:39 left.
Ursinus went on to shoot 22-of-52 (42.3%) overall, 2-of-9 (22.2%) from three and 11-of-16 (68.8%) from the line. Johns Hopkins shot 22-of-50 (44.0%) from the field, 7-of-25 (28.0 %) from beyond the arc and 15-of-25 (60.0 %) from the charity stripe.
The Bears outscored the Blue Jays, 39-30, in the second half.
Ursinus looks to bounce back when it travels to Franklin & Marshall Saturday for a 3 p.m. tip-off.