Brandeis uses big second half to edge men's basketball 71-66

First-year Omar Sarr scored a career-high 17 points at Brandeis on Tuesday, January 7, 2020. (File photo by Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

WALTHAM, Mass. -- The Bates men's basketball team led by as many as 17 points in a 71-66 loss to the Brandeis Judges Tuesday night.

Collin Sawyer scored a game-high 20 points on 7-11 shooting to pace Brandeis (8-3) and Eric D'Aguanno added 14 off the bench. 

Senior Jeff Spellman (Boston, Mass.) and first-year Omar Sarr (Dakar, Senegal) led Bates (7-4) with 17 points each. Spellman grabbed seven rebounds, dished out a team-high six assists and tallied a team-high three steals. Sarr grabbed pulled down a team-high eight rebounds. First-year Stephon Baxter (Worcester, Mass.) added 11 points off the bench. 

The game featured seven ties and 13 lead changes. After a back-and-forth first 10 minutes of the contest, Bates went on a sustained run late in the first half. The Judges were within two, 21-19, after a Sawyer lay-up with 7:13 remaining. Bates went on to score 19 of the game's next 21 points, establishing a 17-point lead at 39-22 on sophomore Kenny Aruwajoye's (Owo, Nigeria) lay-up with 2:22 on the clock. Brandeis started their comeback by closing the first half on a 10-2 run. Lawrence Sabir capped it with an athletic blocked shot, grabbing the rebound and taking it the distance to cut the halftime deficit to single digits at 41-32. Sawyer and Sarr tied for game-high honors with 11 first-half points.

The Judges quickly made it a one-possession game, opening on an 8-2 run with back-to-back 3-pointers from Sawyer and a lay-up by center Nolan Hagerty. After a Bobcat timeout, the Judges got within one on a Sabir jumper that made it 43-42 with 16:18 left. Sawyer eventually tied the game at 45-all a minute later, but Bates kept the home team at bay until Hagerty hit two free throws with just under six minutes to go that made it 55-54.

The rest of the game featured six more lead changes until the Judges scored back-to-back buckets with under three minutes to go. D'Aguanno found Hagerty with a behind-the-back pass with 2:26 to go that gave Brandeis the lead for good, 63-62. After a missed 3-pointer from the Bobcats, Hagerty connected with Dylan Lien, who buried a dagger 3-pointer from the left side with 1:33 left. After getting another stop, the Judges were able to hit five of their last six free throws to salt the game away.

Brandeis outrebounded Bates, 39-31, and hit 13 3-pointers – including 7-of-10 in the second half – while the Bobcats had just five threes, going 1-of-10 in the final 20 minutes.

The Bobcats shot 52% from the field in the first half (15-29) but just 30% in the second (9-30). The visitors also owned an 18-10 edge in points off turnovers despite committing 17 to the Judges' 14.

Bates starts NESCAC play at Wesleyan Sunday at 1 p.m.