COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. — A perfectly executed second half and a phenomenal 30-point performance from senior Eric Williams Jr. was what it took for the Ursinus College men's basketball team to take down No. 10 Swarthmore, 94-88, in front of a full house at Helfferich Hall on Saturday.
In a matchup between the two of the top shooting teams in the Centennial, Ursinus (10-7, 7-3) posted its third win against a top-10 opponent in program history. With the victory, the Bears climbed up the CC standings to a tie with Swarthmore in second place. Ursinus also snapped a nine-game drought against the talented Garnet and ended their 10-game winning streak in the process.
The Bears trailed by five points at the break, 42-37, after a seesaw first half with five ties and four lead changes. After intermission, Ursinus could do no wrong.
In the second half, the Bears shot the lights out from the field at 65.2-percent from the floor (15-for-23) and 88.9 percent from the free throw line (24-of-27). Ursinus proved to be incredibly difficult to stop even against a stingy Garnet defense that ranked fourth in Division III in points allowed and ninth in field-goal percentage defense. The Bears showed impressive poise down the stretch, making one critical free throw after another on a day where they shot an impressive 33-of-37 (89.2%) from the charity stripe.
Williams led the potent Bears with five makes on eight shots from beyond the arc. Even with hands in his face, Williams made numerous contested deep balls to keep Ursinus close in the first half and eventually power the hosts to a signature victory. The sharp-shooter finished 8-of-11 from the field and made all nine free-throw attempts. In total, Ursinus efficiently hit 9-of-14 (64.3%) from beyond the arc and started the contest making their first four 3-point tries.
The Garnet also shot well from deep and from the line, making 13-of-30 (43.3%) from 3-point range and 15-of-18 (83.3%) from the line.
After a Garnet triple a minute into the second half, the Bears went on a 13-0 sprint within a four-minute stretch to grab the lead at 52-45. During the run, Williams drove to the basket for a finish at the rim. Williams then found back-cutting junior Ryan McTamney for a reverse layup. McTamney, who finished with 19 points, converted an old-fashioned three-point play.
Williams handed out another dime to junior Shane Stark, who played superbly in the low post for the Bears. Stark put together a 21-point, nine-rebound game on 7-of-10 shooting and a perfect 7-of-7 from the line.
Swarthmore's Cam Wiley made a jump shot at 14:13 to snap a scoreless streak of just under five minutes. Nate Shafer pulled the Garnet to within a point at 52-51 at the 12:46 mark.
The Bears hung on to a slim edge for much of the second half as the Garnet were difficult to put away. McTamney knocked down a deep ball out of an Ursinus timeout to swing momentum and give the Bears a lift of four points.
With about nine minutes to play, freshman Ryan Hughes dribbled into the paint and kicked to an open McTamney for three to go up 68-60.
The Bears clung to a 77-71 lead with four minutes to play, but a mini-run put the Bears up double digits for the first time at 81-71 when senior Zack Muredda's spin move and pass found Stark for a floater.
With 1:47 left, Williams made a nice reverse layup to go up 83-71, the Bears' largest lead of the game.
It looked like the game was in hand but a few miscues including turnovers, fouls, and a four-point play allowed the door to open as the Garnet worked valiantly to try to take the game late. Swarthmore extended the game, eventually getting themselves within four points at 90-86 with 35 seconds to play. But down the stretch, the Bears stepped to the free throw line with confidence, making all 10 free throws to stave off a late Garnet rally.
Shafer scored a team-high 19 points to lead a contingent of Garnet double-figure scorers. Wiley finished with 18 points. George Visconti and Conor Harkins each had 12 points. Justin Tucker and Zac O'Dell scored 11 and 10 points, respectively, and O'Dell tacked on nine rebounds.
In the first half, shots were falling early and often to begin play. The teams combined for seven 3-pointers in the first four minutes. The Garnet jumped out to an early 10-3 lead less than three minutes in after two triples and two layups.
Ursinus followed up the Garnet's early edge with three straight 3-pointers. The Bears led 20-13 before the Garnet closed the half by outscoring the home side, 29-17.
The Bears outrebounded the Garnet, the top rebounding team in the conference and one of the nation's top ten in rebounding margin, by a 33-28 count.
Hughes finished with 13 points on an 11-of-13 effort from the line, which included several critical makes in the closing minutes. Muredda had 11 points, six rebounds, and four assists.
The Bears look to carry the momentum to Muhlenberg for a conference tilt at 8 p.m. next Thursday.