After a four-month journey, the 2015-16 season has finally come to an end for the Brandeis men’s basketball team. The Judges suffered a 71-50 loss at home on Saturday in their last game of the season. The Judges finish the season with nine wins and 16 losses, which did not qualify them for NCAA tournament. NYU earned the chance to continue further on their road to NCAA with a record of 20-5 after their victory at Brandeis.
The NYU Violets started the game with a 9-2 run which forced the first time-out for the Judges. The height advantage granted the Violets an early dominance in the paint as forwards Evan Kupferberg and Costis Gontikas scored seven points out of nine. “We definitely were at a height disadvantage. Those two big guys are both first team all-league and very good players,” said guard Tim Reale ’17. With players up to six feet nine inches tall, they continued to utilize their height to score and rebound under the basket as they combined 31 points and 10 rebounds in total. The Judges also spent a lot of effort on driving to the basket and drawing fouls. The Judges’ hustle earned them seven offensive rebounds and forced three turnovers and four fouls on Gontikas.
However, when the Judges tried to cut down the lead after a 11-0 run, the starting guard for NYU knocked down five three-pointers and led the Violets to an amazing 8-14 shooting performance outside the three-point line. But for the Judges, the basket seemed to have a cover on it, as the Judges struggled outside with only three three-pointers made. “Three-pointers aren’t really my strength. I think shooting is something we can improve on as well,” said Reale. “As for our three point defense, I think we did a good job applying ball pressure so that NYU didn’t get many easy looks.” Reale contributed 11 points on Saturday.
On the offensive end, the Judges executed their game plan by delivering the ball to forward Jordan Cooper ’18. He had an amazing second half with 4-5 shooting performance and eight points to try keeping the Judges in the game. However, Cooper did not have the chance to initiate scoring runs for the team to cut down the lead, as the Violets have prepared well on how to defend Cooper. Every time after Cooper hit a jump shot, he was double teamed and forced to commit multiple turnovers. In the end, Cooper led the team with 15 points, five rebounds and two steals. He was also recently named second team All UAA with outstanding performance and incredible progress. “I think Jordan is the best player in the league and it’s a joke that he wasn’t first team all UAA. He started off the year struggling but worked extremely hard and ended up having a great season. We’re planning on having a great year next year and Jordan will be a huge piece as he steps into more of a leadership role,” commented Reale.
The game on Saturday was also the final game for the team’s only senior, guard Colby Smith ’16. Smith scored four points and gathered three rebounds. Colby stunned the crowd with a sensational block on NYU center Gontikas in transition defense. “It’s tough seeing Colby graduate because he was such a good teammate and was everything you want in a basketball player … [I want to] thank him for teaching all of us how to approach the game of basketball with passion and intensity day in and day out,” said Reale on Smith. Smith came out of the game with a little over a minute left and was met by a long hug from Coach Meehan, teary-eyed teammates who congratulated Smith on his career with Brandeis, and a thunderous applause as well as a standing ovation from many of the fans in the crowd.
Smith finishes his career with 99 games played, 2,197 minutes played, 394 points scored and 215 assists over his four-year career with the Brandeis Judges. Smith states that, “Life after basketball is nice because I have extra time to spend on my school work and playing intramural sports, but I will miss playing for the team more than anything. I will … miss the time I spent with my teammates and the good times we had on the road and the feeling of the crowd cheering at our Friday night games at Brandeis.” Smith will graduate with a double major in Economics and Business and hopes to get into real estate after graduation.
As for the Judges’ season, “When you finish with the record that we did the season is a disappointment. All you can do is take whatever positives there were and build on those and then work hard until next season on the negatives,” said Reale. “Working hard in the offseason, I believe, earns you the right to win close games when the season comes which we failed to do this past season,” commented Reale.