BALTIMORE, Md. – Down by 17 points with under 10 minutes to play, the Ursinus men's basketball team sparked a rally and had a chance to take the lead with two minutes to go before Johns Hopkins held off the late charge to take a hot-shooting clash of Centennial Conference titans, 90-81.
Despite the loss, which handed the Blue Jays a season sweep, Ursinus (14-9, 11-5) still all but clinched the number three seed and a first-round bye in the conference tournament with Muhlenberg's loss at Franklin & Marshall. Barring two wins by Hopkins and two losses by Swarthmore next week (plus two wins by the Mules and two losses for Ursinus), the Bears and Blue Jays will meet for a third time in the CC semifinals on February 22.
In a battle of teams tied for second in the league, neither net at Goldfarb Gymnasium was safe. Both squads shot over 50 percent from the field, with the Blue Jays leading at 52.4 percent; the Bears were also an even 50 percent from beyond the arc (9-for-18).
A 38-27 rebounding edge (9-2 on the offensive glass) helped Johns Hopkins build a lead that looked to be safe, but the Bears made things very interesting down the stretch.
It was 72-55 with 9:51 to play before the valiant Bears mounted a 22-7 stretch until the 2:42 mark to get within two points of the Blue Jays at 79-77. Seniors Eric Williams Jr. and Zack Muredda made 3-pointers to cut the lead to nine (72-63).
After a bit of an Ursinus burst, Johns Hopkins (15-8, 12-4) responded with two baskets to get it to 77-63.
The crucial 11-2 run from 6:33 to 2:42 pushed the Bears within reach. Williams added another triple to get the Bears to five points down. The Blue Jays missed a pair of free throws before Muredda drained a 3-pointer to get closer. Johns Hopkins missed the front end of a 1-and-1, leading to a Bears' possession to go ahead or tie. But junior Ryan McTamney had a go-ahead 3-pointer rim out with two minutes to go and Michael Gardner followed with a pull-up dagger that got a friendly bounce off the rim to give the Blue Jays a four-point lead with 1:41 remaining.
McTamney was a difference-maker for the Bears. He earned the team's Wall-O'Mahony Game MVP honor as he poured in 21 points. The game honors Glen Wall and Matt O'Mahony, two former Johns Hopkins basketball players who were lost in the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11.
Williams scored 16 points and nailed three treys on the day, extending his consecutive games streak with a made 3-pointer to 40. The perimeter marksman moved his career total to 302, which is four away from Ursinus legend Dennis Stanton for second place in conference history and seven shy of Brandon Federici's top mark of 309.
The Bears started 5-of-6 from the floor as junior Shane Stark handed out assists on the Bears' first four buckets. Stark filled the stat sheet with 12 points, a team-high eight rebounds, and six assists.
McTamney scored the Bears' first six points before Stark found Muredda (11 points) for a 3-pointer to jump out to a 9-4 lead.
Braeden Johnson kick-started a prolific half for the Blue Jays. Johnson connected on his first three long-range attempts to give Johns Hopkins a 19-16 edge eight minutes in. The rookie made four long balls in the half for 12 points and ended the day with 21 points. Johnson finished 6-of-9 from the field, 5-of-7 from 3-point range, and a perfect 4-of-4 from the line. The Blue Jays went on 10-0 run to go up 26-16 while the Bears were scoreless for three minutes in the middle of the first half.
Williams drained his 300th triple at the 2:23 mark. The milestone cut the lead to 41-33 but the Blue Jays closed on a 7-2 run to push their lead to 48-35 at the break as Noah Ralby's layup after a Johns Hopkins steal beat the buzzer. Ralby scored 12 points and handed out 11 assists.
Reserve Harry O'Neil was named Johns Hopkins' MVP. He finished with 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting and added eight rebounds. O'Neil and Johnson led a Blue Jay bench contingent that combined for 47 points.
The Bears went to the free-throw line ten more times than the Blue Jays. Ursinus went 22-of-31 (71%) and Johns Hopkins shot 14-of-21 (66.7%). Each team committed 11 turnovers.
Ursinus hosts Muhlenberg Wednesday at 8 p.m.