PROVIDENCE, RI – A strong second-half performance by the Johnson & Wales University men's basketball team propelled the Wildcats to the GNAC Tournament championship game. JWU outscored Suffolk 41-33 in the second half to defeat the Rams, 80-74, on Thursday.
Johnson & Wales: 18-9
Randall Ferdinand (JWU): 22 points
Brian Hogan-Gary (JWU): 30 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists
Thomas Duffy (SU): 33 points, 4 assists
Suffolk didn't miss a shot for the first seven minutes in establishing a 19-12 lead on a Jim Djema three-pointer. JWU slowly chipped away at the Rams' margin, taking a 28-27 advantage on a Jarell Lawson layup at the six-minute mark. Suffolk shot 66.7 percent in the first half.
It was contrasting offensive styles in the first half as Suffolk scored 12 points behind the arc while Johnson & Wales worked the ball inside for 24 points in the paint. The Rams took a 41-39 advantage in the locker room.
Johnson & Wales started the second half by outscoring the Rams, 12-3, to take a 51-44 advantage on back-to-back Lawson three-pointers. The lead grew to as many as nine on a Randall Ferdinand layup.
Thomas Duffy hit a three-pointer at the 2:25 mark to pull the Rams within 74-72, but Matt Madoian came up with a three-pointer and Brian Hogan-Gary stole the ball on the ensuing possession for a breakaway dunk to seal the victory. Johnson & Wales shot 62.1 percent in the second half while holding Suffolk to 40.7 percent.
Hogan-Gary just missed a double-double with 30 points and a game-high eight rebounds. Johnson & Wales had a 33-12 rebounding advantage. Ferdinand was next with 22 points – his third 20-point game in a row.
Leading all scorers was Duffy as he poured in 33 points. Djema was next with 17 as the two accounted for 68 percent of Suffolk's scoring.
The victory sets up a championship showdown at Albertus Magnus on Saturday. The two teams split this year's regular season contests with both teams winning at home. The Falcons and Wildcats have won the last eight GNAC championships.