Hamilton men’s basketball caps Land of Magic Classic with win

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Matt Hart '16 poured in 22 points and posted season highs of eight rebounds, four assists and three steals as Hamilton College outlasted Ursinus College 85-77 in the Land of Magic Classic at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's ICI Center on Dec. 30.

Hamilton (7-5 overall) converted a season-best 25 free throws and tied their season high with 10 three-pointers. The Continentals have won both meetings in the all-time series with the Bears.

Hart led five Continentals in double figures. Eric Benvenuti '13 notched a season-high 16 points on 5 of 10 shooting from beyond the arc. Peter Kazickas '15 scored 13 points and Ken Click '13 and Joseph Lin '15 chipped in 10 points apiece off the bench. Hamilton received 37 points from its reserves.

"This was our best effort so far this season," head coach Adam Stockwell said. "Our defense kept us in the game early, and big plays by many guys helped us to a tough win against a tough opponent."

Malik Draper '16 led all scorers with 25 points and pulled down seven rebounds for the Bears. Jon Ward '13 and Kevin Janowski '13 also reached double figures with 17 and 16 points, respectively. Jesse Krasna '14 recorded game highs of 11 rebounds and five assists, and added eight points.

Ursinus (5-7) jumped out to an early 11-4 lead as Ward scored its first six points. Benvenuti answered with his second 3-pointer, and Click and Lin followed with baskets to tie the score at 11-11. After a Draper layup, Greg Newton '14 knocked down a trifecta, and gave the Continentals their first lead at 14-13 with 12:17 remaining in the half.

With the score tied 16-16, the Bears went on a 7-2 run to take a 23-18 advantage on five points by Draper. Hart scored four straight points and cut Hamilton's deficit to 28-27. After a layup by Draper and two free throws by Click, Hamilton regained the lead at 31-30 on a Hart jumper with 4:40 left in the half.

The Continentals trailed 33-31 when Benvenuti drilled his third shot from long range to retake the lead. Janowski responded with a basket for the Bears, which turned out to be their last points of the half. The Continentals scored the final six points on layups by Click and Newton and two free throws by Kazickas for a 40-35 advantage. Hamilton made five shots from beyond the arc in the opening 20 minutes. Draper finished the half with 16 points for Ursinus.

Hart opened the second half with two free throws, but the Bears stormed back with an 8-0 run and went back in front, 43-42. Benvenuti gave Hamilton the lead back at 46-43 on a rare four-point play. Ursinus scored nine of the next 12 points and led 52-49 with 14 minutes left.

The Bears extended their lead to 59-54 on a 3-pointer by Matt Donohue '13. But back-to-back baskets from beyond the arc by Kazickas and Lin sparked a 14-2 run and gave the Continentals the lead for good at 68-61 with 8:22 remaining. Hart and Benvenuti also drained 3-pointers during the spurt.

After more than two minutes of scoreless play, Lin stole the ball and found Newton for a layup for Hamilton's largest lead of the afternoon at 74-65 with 3:54 left. Ursinus chipped away at the Continentals' lead and climbed within three points on two occasions, including 78-75 after a Ward dunk with 43 seconds to play. However, Hamilton went 5-for-6 at the charity stripe down the stretch to hold off the Bears.

The Continentals finished 25-for-31 (80.6 percent) at the free throw line and shot 38.4 percent (10-26) from long range. Ursinus shot 44.4 percent (28-63) and held a 44-35 advantage in rebounds. But Hamilton's 11 steals turned 14 turnovers into 23 points. The Continentals committed just six turnovers.

Hamilton begins NESCAC play on Friday, Jan. 4, when the Continentals travel to Bowdoin College.