After splitting last weekend’s games at Bates and Tufts, the men’s basketball team completed its regular season with a 6-4 NESCAC record (19-4 overall), good enough for the No. 4 seed in the NESCAC tournament. The men will host their quarterfinal matchup against Trinity tomorrow in Morrell Gymnasium.
In the Friday game against Bates (11-12 overall, 1-8 NESCAC), the Polar Bears happily took advantage of a nearly absent crowd due to Bates’ winter break. After bracing themselves for one of the NESCAC’s toughest gyms, the Polar Bears heard few jeers as they coasted to a 75-49 win.
“Oh, that made my day,” said John Swords ’15. “I have a buddy who goes there who has been looking forward to screaming horrible, horrible things at me all fall and winter and then I got a text from him earlier in the day [telling me he was away on break].”
“Also we had a really fun contingent of Bowdoin kids who came, it was almost like a home game. It’s my least favorite day of the year usually, and it was more fun this time,” Swords added.
The day after the Bates win, though, the team came out flat against Tufts (13-11, 4-6 NESCAC), ultimately suffering a 66-62 loss. Lucas Hausman ’16 erupted for 16 points in the first half and Swords dominated in the paint the entire game, finishing with 21 points and 14 rebounds, but the rest of the team struggled and the Polar Bears entered halftime only ahead by one.
While the game stayed close, the Polar Bears could not match the Jumbos’ physicality and were never able to go on a run in the second half. Although the team never led in the last 12 minutes of the game, Bowdoin had a chance to go ahead with 25 seconds to go, but missed a three pointer. It missed another to tie the game on its next possession, allowing the Jumbos to ice the game from the free-throw line.
“Credit Tufts,” said Head Coach Tim Gilbride. “They played well. I wouldn’t say it was our best game as a team though. But we played well enough to get some shots to win it.”
The team is now done with the regular season and, in order to make a deep post-season run, it may need help from guard Bryan Hurley ’15.
Although Hurley has now played in seven games this season, this weekend was the first in which he saw substantial minutes—playing 22 in Lewiston and 11 against Tufts. Hurley was the focal point of a guard-centric offense last season, but tore his ACL last summer and missed over half of this season to rehab and recover.
Despite a change in the team’s offensive style and a diminished role, Hurley has adapted fairly well, especially considering basketball players usually require more time to recover from ACL tears than other athletes because of the unparalleled amount of pressure on the knee from the jumping and cutting that the sport requires.
“I didn’t expect him to be playing this year,” said Swords. “I honestly thought he was going to be out the whole time even though he was telling me otherwise. I thought that was just Bryan being stubborn, but stubborn can be a really good thing.”
“He’s definitely still getting used to the offense,” added Madlinger. “But with this week, seeing how he played and how he responded, you can see how he can help us come playoff time.”
Hurley and the rest of the team will need to step up offensively for tomorrow’s post-season game against Trinity. The teams’ earlier matchup this season was a physical, defensive struggle that ended in a 46-39 win for the Polar Bears. Both teams were baffled offensively, each shooting less than 30 percent from the field.
“They are a physical team. They like to push both the ball and my back,” said Swords. “No matter how the shooting goes I’m going to have a wrestling match for 40 minutes.”
“It wasn’t a very pretty game, that’s for sure. It was probably the most physical game we played all year,” added Madlinger. “I think it was the lowest-scoring game that ended in a win in school history. Hopefully we can score in this next one but I’m definitely expecting the same type of game.”
Having the opportunity to host the playoff game is only adding to the team’s excitement.
“I haven’t had [a home playoff game] before. As a senior, I love it,” said Madlinger.
“Our crowd this year has been so much fun to play for,” said Swords. “I’ve never played for crowds the way I have at the last Trinity game or the Amherst game.”
“They’re very excited about it,” added Gilbride. “If anything, it’s keeping them from getting too hyped up [that I have to worry about].”