#25 men can't quite complete comeback against #1 Rochester, 66-59

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WALTHAM, Mass. – The 25th-ranked Brandeis University men's basketball team nearly erased a 14-point second-half deficit, but the Judges couldn't quite get over the hump against the University of Rochester today, as the top-ranked Yellowjackets escaped Red Auerbach Arena with a 66-59 University Athletic Association (UAA) victory. With the loss, the Judges fall to 15-5 overall, 6-3 in the UAA. UR improves to 19-1, 8-1 in the UAA, and takes a two-game lead over Brandeis, Emory and Washington University with five games to play.

      Brandeis faced its largest halftime deficit of the season of 12 points at 32-20 as UR closed the first half on a 10-0 run over the final 4:15. The Judges shot just 26 percent from the floor (6-23), while Rochester connected on 40 percent (10-25). UR senior John DiBartolomeo (Westport, Conn./Staples) led all players with nine points in the first, while junior Nate Vernon (Chapel Hill, N.C./Suffield Acad.) added eight. Brandeis junior Gabriel Moton (St. Petersburg, Fla./St. Petersburg) had seven points for the Judges.

      Rochester's lead bounced between seven and 12 points, but a fast-break lay-up by sophomore Tyler Sankes (Rochester, N.Y./McQuaid Jesuit) made it a 48-34 advantage for the visitors with 10:26 left. The Judges climbed back into the game at that point, keeping UR without a field goal for the next five minutes, outscoring the Yellowjackets, 15-2, in that span. Brandeis connected on three 3-pointers, including on back-to-back possessions with just under eight minutes remaining by Derek Retos (No. Attleboro, Mass./Brimmer and May) and Alex Stoyle (Goffstown, N.H./Tilton Acad.) that cut the lead to 50-45 with 7:18 left.

      Brandeis got a stop after a Rochester timeout, and Stoyle connected on two free throws after grabbing an offensive rebound to make it a one-possession game. Stoyle had a block and grabbed another board on the defensive end, and Moton drove to the basket to make it a one-point game, 50-49, with 5:59 left on the clock.

      Unfortunately, the Judges could never make it past Rochester. Rob Reid (Mt. Airy, N.C./Phillips Exeter Acad.) stopped the bleeding for the visitors at the 5:52 mark. Stoyle and DiBartolomeo traded hoops on the next four possessions, making it 56-53 in favor of UR. The 'Jacket senior continued his outstanding play on the next two possessions with a defensive rebound that led to a bucket and a steal and lay-in with 3:08 to go that made it a 60-53 edge.

      Moton answered for Brandeis with 2:49 on the clock, getting Brandeis back within five at 60-55. The Judges got a stop on the next possession, but DiBartolomeo put the dagger in the comeback. He made a steal with 2:04 on the clock and hit a clutch 24-foot 3-pointer from straight-away as the shot clock expired and 1:31 left in regulation, making an eight point game with just 91 seconds remaining. UR hit 3-of-5 from the line down the stretch, while Brandeis hit a couple of buckets for the final seven-point margin.

      Brandeis was led by Moton's team-high 17 points, 10 coming in the second half. After playing just five minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, Stoyle had a tremendous second half to finish with 15 points and a game-high nine rebounds, just missing his second-straight double-double. He also had three blocked shots. Retos connected on three 3-pointers to finish with nine points. Ben Bartoldus (Hillsborough, N.H./Proctor Acad.) led Brandeis with four assists.

      DiBartolomeo finished with a game-high 22 points – 13 in the second half - and had his team-high with eight rebounds and four assists. Vernon finished with 14 points, hitting 3-of-4 from downtown, 5-of-6 from the line. Sophomore Tyler Seidman (Bellmore, N.Y./Holy Trinity) had nine points and Sankes and Kevin Sheehy (Syosset, N.Y./Chaminade) had eight each. UR was able to overcome a 30-25 rebounding deficit by connecting on 9-of-18 from 3-point range and owning a 13-10 scoring edge from the free throw line. They also won the turnover battle, 16-8, outscoring Brandeis, 11-5, in points off miscues.

      The Judges return to the road for more UAA action next weekend, when they head to Pittsburgh to take on Carnegie Mellon University Friday night at 8 p.m.