The men’s basketball team is in the midst of a 3-game slide as it prepares for its final two regular season games this weekend.

Last Friday the Polar Bears fell to No. 6 Middlebury by a score of 72-61. The Panthers controlled the game throughout, building a 43-30 lead at halftime. Bowdoin narrowed the lead to just seven with 13 minutes left, but a shrewd timeout by Middlebury Head Coach Jeff Brown halted the Polar Bears’ momentum. Panther sophomore forward Hunter Merryman sank a critical 3-pointer on Middlebury’s subsequent possession and the lead never shrank below 10 thereafter. 

While the Polar Bears played with Middlebury neck-and-neck throughout the second half, Head Coach Tim Gilbride said he knows that the Polar Bears need a complete 40 minutes of good basketball to best a team of that caliber.

“When you’re playing the best teams in the country, you have to play well the whole way through to have a chance at knocking them off,” said Gilbride. “When we really play our best we can be right there. We just have to stay focused for longer stretches of time.”

Keegan Pieri ’15 scored 13 points for the Polar Bears in his return to action after missing two games due to concussion-like symptoms. Andrew Madlinger ’14 scored 14 points, as did John Swords ’15, who came off the bench. Swords also grabbed nine rebounds and threw down a thunderous two-hand dunk in the game’s waning moments, perhaps giving the team some momentum heading into the next day’s showdown.

The Saturday game was indeed much closer, but the defeat was perhaps more painful as the men lost on their Senior Night to No. 9 Williams in overtime, 76-64. After the teams played to a halftime tie, Williams looked to be taking control of the match, jumping out to a 9-point lead in the second half. But the Polar Bears stormed back, and the teams traded baskets until overtime. Matt Mathias ’14 nailed a quick 3-pointer to open the extra period, but it was all downhill from there for the Bowdoin men. Soon after, several Bowdoin defenders failed to pursue a rebound, leading to a momentum-changing 3-pointer by Williams. The Ephs finished the overtime period on a 15-0 scoring run.

“It got them going while we were still like ‘What just happened?’” said Gilbride. “All of sudden we were behind by too much with not enough time left.”

Mathias carried the team with 20 points, including an impressive five 3-pointers. Pieri scored 13 off the bench, while point guard Bryan Hurley ’15 dished out 14 assists and pulled down seven rebounds. 

Williams’ high-scoring duo of juniors Taylor Epley and Mike Mayer played well for the Ephs, combining for 43 points on 17-24 shooting. Despite the tough loss, Pieri said Bowdoin was able to take away some positives.

“It was frustrating to lose in overtime, but if you take a step back you realize that we played a complete basketball game,” said Pieri. “We executed our game plan and we had good performances from several people.”

The Polar Bears suffered another disappointing loss on Tuesday night, falling to a talented but inconsistent Bridgewater State University (BSU) team, 79-65. 

After jumping out to a 15-point lead less than eight minutes into the game, Bowdoin was thoroughly outplayed for the rest of the night. BSU senior Brendan McDonald led the victors with 19 points while Pieri, Madlinger, Mathias, and Swords all finished in double figures for the Polar Bears.

“We handled their full-court pressure pretty well,” said Gilbride. “We got some open looks and shot well. When they went to good, tough man-to-man defense we did not handle that well for whatever reason. We stopped getting open looks and started making poor decisions.”

The Polar Bears will finish their regular season on the road this weekend against Connecticut College on Saturday and Wesleyan on Sunday. Conn. College is 0-8 in NESCAC play this year, but the Wesleyan Cardinals are 3-5 in the conference, the same record as Bowdoin. 

Depending on their play and that of other teams this weekend, the Bowdoin men could enter the conference playoffs seeded as high as No. 5, or could fail to make the playoffs entirely. Pieri said he thinks the team will benefit from this uncertainty.

“In the back of our minds there’s the notion that we really need to bring it,” he said. “The added pressure is a positive.”