Jason Mendell '12 (#34, photo) hit four of seven three-pointers and scored a team-leading 17 points during Wesleyan's opening-round contest of the Naismith Classic at Springfield Sat., Jan. 2. It helped the Cardinals build an eight-point lead over SUNY-Purchase in the second half, but a rally by the Panthers allowed them to hold on for a 70-68 victory.
Wesleyan will play Salve Regina Sun., Jan. 3 in the tournament consolation game. Salve dropped a 77-49 decision to host Springfield in its first-round matchup.
Before Purchase took a 63-62 lead with 4:01 left to go, a lead it would no relinquish, Wesleyan trailed for less than three minutes during the opening 36 minutes of the contest. The Cardinals held as much as a seven-point cushion (31-24) during the first half, then led by as many as eight (46-38) in the second stanza, that coming with 15:09 remaining. But the Panthers took their first lead in the second half, 52-50, with 9:24 showing on the clock. Wesleyan responded with eight consecutive points to regain the advantage, 58-52. The last lead chance came when Purchase converted its seventh and final three-pointer of the contest.
Still, after falling behind 67-62 for its largest deficit of the game, Wesleyan closed the margin to 69-68 with 1:02 to go. Purchase then missed a shot, with Mike Callaghan '13 clearing the board for the Cardinals. Wesleyan called timeout with :17.6 left. Shasha Brown '13 took a short jumper with :10 to go, but missed the mark. When Purchase got the rebound, Wesleyan fouled and the Panthers made one of two to make it 70-68. Again Brown got the call and drove toward the basket but came up empty. The ball went out of bounds off Purchase, giving the Cards one last chance with :01.4 showing on the game clock. A long pass toward midcourt was collared by Derrick Beresford '13, forcing him to launch a long, off-balanced shot from more than 25 feet. His attempt hit the front of the rim as the buzzer sounded.
Joining Mendell in double-figures was Jeremy Kaminer '10 with 15 points. Callaghan finished the game with nine points and a game-high 11 rebounds.