Men’s basketball falls to Brandeis in 5-overtime battle

Tufts men's basketball players are pictured in their season opener on Nov. 16. They lost 92–71 to the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Courtesy Jared Marshall

Tufts men’s basketball fell to Brandeis after five overtime periods in the final of the New England Big 4 Challenge this past weekend. Tufts beat Salem State 78–52 on Dec. 3 to advance to the championship game. Yet after a hard-fought battle, the Brandeis Judges ultimately secured the home court championship win with a score of 108–102. 

In the Friday game against Salem State, freshman forward Bobby Stewart had a standout game, securing 20 points and eight rebounds. The entire Jumbo roster worked together, with a pretty evenly spread-out offense. Junior guard and co-captain Tyler Aronson credited the successful performance to the team’s specific preparation for Salem State.

“We played very [well] together,” Aronson said. “We prepared for them all week to play a good zone and our focus for that was at a really high level. And then just being together on offense, moving the ball around well, really built our confidence going into the next game of the Big 4 tournament.” 

Heading into the championship game against Brandeis on Saturday, Dec. 4, the team had high energy and positive attitudes. Coming from an 18–1 deficit within the first 10 minutes of the game, players rallied for an impressive comeback and shifted their momentum. A combination of good Jumbo defense and an impressive offensive performance by junior guard Dylan Thoerner put the team within reach, as the Jumbos only trailed by four points at the half.

The Judges and Jumbos went back and forth for the remainder of the game with strong ball movement and offense all around. A clutch jump by graduate student guard Brennan Morris tied up the score 61–61 with three seconds remaining in regular play, sending the game into overtime. The two teams continued the evenly matched contest, as the score only increased by five points for each side, 66–66, in the first overtime.

With 18 seconds left in the second overtime, Thoerner made a 3-point jump shot, sending the game into its third overtime. Brandeis matched this shot in the third overtime, making a three-point shot with 17 seconds remaining to force a fourth overtime. To send the game into its fifth and final overtime, Morris stepped up again in the final 20 seconds with a three-point shot to tie the score 94–94. The Judge offense ran away with the win in the final overtime to win the game 108–102. Thoerner commented on the games’ energy. 

“We never felt like we were out of it, even when we were down five points with 20 seconds left,” Thoerner said. “Those last few minutes in the second half we just kept fighting and believing we had a chance to win, playing hard. Each overtime we felt like we had a chance to win. It was a great battle against Brandeis.”

Thoerner finished the game with an impressive 34 points, also 16–16 from the free throw line for the night. Junior guard Carson Cohen and Stewart both secured double-doubles with 10 rebounds and 11 points and 16 rebounds and 13 points, respectively. As the game went to several overtimes, several Jumbo starters fouled out, forcing the rest of the team to work harder for the rest of the game

Aronson said the team effort was great and informative of its recent focus to fight hard in games.

“A lot of different people throughout the game stepped up in a major way, a lot of big plays were made,” Aronson said. “Obviously it’s super deflating losing a game that you played 50-plus minutes in, but we’re really trying to find our identity as a tough, hard-working, gritty team and that game encapsulated a lot of that. Trying to find the silver lining in that game, a lot of people got some significant minutes and got to really show that our hard work is starting to pay off in making steps in the right direction.”

The weekend tournament currently leaves the Jumbos with a 2–6 record. Reflecting on the season thus far and looking forward to the remainder, Aronson said the team has work to do but is making great progress internally, despite its record.

“We had a great season two years ago and we were pretty highly ranked in the preseason, and now everybody thinks we’re a vulnerable team,” Aronson said. “When it comes to us preparing and showing up for games, we need to be ready to go right from the tip until the final buzzer. Putting together two halves for us is going to be really important for us. Also, staying locked in and staying positive with our season because I think we are really making some good strides.”

The team plays Nichols College in Cousens Gym on Saturday, Dec. 11 at 3 p.m.