Stan Grayson '09 (#45, main photo) converted a three-point play with 1:13 remaining to put Wesleyan ahead, 61-60, and the Cardinals never lost the advantage en route to a 64-61 NESCAC victory over Bates Sat., Jan 31. Grayson finished the game with 16 points and six important free throws, an area where he had been struggling during the season.
Also scoring 16 points, tying his career high, was Gabe Gonzalez-Kreisberg '09 (#50, photo insert lower right). Now a three-point threat, Kresiberg nailed three from long range, including a key trey with 2:00 to play which got the Cardinals within a point at 59-58. Wesleyan had trailed 58-51 with five minutes to go before mounting a comeback. After taking the lead, Wesleyan got a pair of free throws from Grayson with 35 second to go for a 63-60 lead. Grayson made six of his first seven free throws in the game despite coming into the contest with a dismal 38.7 percent mark for the year. Kreisberg added another point from the charity stripe with :17 to go, giving Wesleyan a three-point cushion. Though Grayson missed a pair from the line with :07.3 showing on the clock, it proved inconsequential as the Wesleyan defense prevented Bates from attempting a final shot, securing the league triumph.
The night before In another thrilling contest Fri., Jan. 30, the Cardinals got 21 points from Jason Mendell '12 (#34, photo insert upper left) as he paced the team in scoring for an eighth time this year and took over team scoring leadership, now with a 13.3 PPG average. It wasn't quite enough, however, as Tufts escaped with a 79-78 victory.
The game came down to the final 10 seconds as Tufts got to the free-throw line on three separate occasions, missing each time but claiming two rebounds to keep the ball in its possessions. On the third miss, Wesleyan's Kevin Scura '09 got the ball and hurried downcourt to take a jumper which just missed the mark and an offensive rebound by Gonzalez-Kreisberg resulted in another near miss at the buzzer from close range.
Wesleyan led throughout the opening 26 minutes of the game but Tufts took the lead for good at 53-51 with 13:42 remaining. The Jumbos led by no more than six, however, and Wesleyan cut it to one, 79-78, on a Mendell trey with 1:00 on the clock. But that was the end of the scoring.
Kreisberg took game-high honors on the boards with 13 rebounds while both Scura and Dave Maltz '11 chipped in with 12 points apiece.
Next up for the squad was a road game Mon., Feb. 2 at Salve Regina. Wesleyan recovered from a 32-22 deficit at halftime to lead by as many as five, 51-46, with 7:51 to play. The game came down to the final minute and while Grayson, who netted a career-high 30 in the game (14-for-18 from the field), gave the Cards a 62-60 lead with 1:02 remaining, Salve tied it up to force overtime. Salve hit a three-pointer to open the scoring in the extra frame and pulled away to post an 80-71 victory. Mendell added 20 points for Wesleyan.
Playing another non-league game at Eastern Conn. Wed., Feb. 4, Wesleyan trailed by eight late in the first half but worked its way to lead by one, 53-52, on an inside basket by Maltz with 11:50 to go. Eastern responded with a 9-0 run to take a 61-53 lead. Again, Wesleyan got right back into the game and drew to within a point, 61-60, on a Steve Tolbert '10 free throw with 3:22 to go. Once again the Warriors went on a run, this time 10-1, to up the margin to eight, 70-62, with just 1:19 to play and came away with a 75-69 victory.
Top scorers Mendell (23 points) and Grayson (19 points) led the way for the Cardinals with Scura adding 11. Mendell and Scura combined to go 8-for-14 from three-point range in the contest.
Next was a pivotal NESCAC matchup with travel partner Conn. College in Middletown Sat., Feb. 7. Despite 20 points from Scura, 15 from Mendell and a double-double from Grayson (13 points, 12 boards), Conn came away with an 85-70 win. The game was tied 19-19 before the Camels ended the half on a 27-11 run for a 46-30 bulge. The Cards got as close as seven with three minutes to play but Conn went 10-for-10 at the line in the closing minutes to seal its victory.
Wesleyan was on the road to Bowdoin Fri., Feb. 13, and lost an important matchup, 72-46. The team is now in a must-win situation at Colby Sat., Feb. 14 if its hopes to qualify for the NESCAC tournament on the last day of the NESCAC regular season.
At Bowdoin, the Polar Bears seized control during the first half with a 21-3 run, pulling away from an 11-9 lead to assume a 30-12 margin. The halftime gap stood at 23, 44-21. Wesleyan got no closer than 16 in the second period. Mendell led the Cardinals with 17 points.
Wesleyan's only chance of playing in the NESCAC tournament hinges on a win at Colby and a loss by Conn. College at Bowdoin.
(all photos by SteveMcLaughlinPhotography.com)