Wesleyan rolled past St. Joseph’s of Brooklyn, 76-47, in the opening round of the Red & Black Classic, hosted by Wesleyan Thurs., Dec. 30, by jumping out to an early 18-3 lead eight minutes into the contest and never looking back as the Cardinals forged a substantial 45-21 advantage at halftime. The lead never shrank below 22 thereafter as the differential varied between 22 and 30 points throughout the final 20 minutes. The Cardinals got 21 points from Jason Mendell '12 (#34, right side photo) as he went a perfect 10-for-10 at the line. Otis Poisson '11 chipped in with 14 points, 12 of them on four three-pointers, and Mike Callaghan '13 had 11 points along with a team-high seven rebounds. Wesleyan enjoyed a 51-32 margin on the boards.
Wesleyan had two all-tournament selections with Shasha Brown '13 (#11, left side photo) scoring 22 points vs. Wheaton to receive a nod. Mendell was the other as he added 14 points in the finals to go along with his 21 in the opening-day win over St. Joseph’s.
In reaching their second home tournament championship game of the season, the Cardinals took on Wheaton College Fri., Dec 31. Wheaton held off Westfield St., 65-60, in its first-round matchup. The contest pit the Cardinals and Lyons against each other for only the third time in history and the first in nearly 20 years. Wesleyan was 2-0 vs Wheaton, having beaten the Lyons, 55-51, the last time the teams met Feb. 14, 1991 in Norton, Mass. In the first-ever contest between the squads, Wesleyan captured a 93-66 home victory in 1990. The respective coaches, Joe Reilly of Wesleyan and Brian Walmsley of Wheaton, were teammates at South Catholic High School in Hartford during the 1983-84 season.
Wheaton captured the tournament title with its fourth straight win after an 0-6 start, besting Wesleyan, 82-77. Though Wesleyan forged the game’s largest lead behind a 12-0 run late in the first half for a 40-29 advantage before settling for a 40-31 bulge at halftime, Wheaton recovered to take its first lead since holding an early 4-2 edge with a 15-4 run to open the second period for a 46-44 Lyon lead. After the Cardinals regained the advantage on a Poisson three-pointer, a pair of Lyon free throws started an 11-4 burst and the lead was Wheaton’s the rest of the way. The margin varied between two and 10 points over the final 10 minutes. Wheaton hit eight of 10 free throws in the final 1:12 to keep the Cardinals at arm’s length. A three-pointerwith 2:36 to go spotted the Lyons their largest lead at 71-61. It was 82-72 with :12 left before Wesleyan netted the final five points. Wheaton was an outstanding 28-for-30 from the charity stripe as Wesleyan outscored Wheaton by eight points from the field but the Lyons canned 13 extra free throws as the Cardinals hit 15 of their 19 attempts at the line. Mendell was 6-for-6 at the stripe and extended his streak of consecutive free throws to 24 while improving his percentage to .892 (33-for-37) this season. Glen Thomas '14 chipped in with 10 points and nine rebounds for Wesleyan vs. Wheaton.
Wesleyan had a Little Three game next with a trip to Amherst Wed., Jan. 5. Brown led the squad with 22 points, followed closely by Mendell with 20 as he extended his free-throw streak to 28, but Amherst pulled away in the final eight minutes to take an 87-74 victory.
Undefeated (11-0) and 17th-ranked Amherst moved out to a 12-point bulge, 42-30, early in the second half after leading much of the opening period by just single digits. Behind five points from Derick Beresford '13 and four from Mendell, the Cardinals cut the difference to 44-42 with 15:02 to go. The margin was no more than six points for the next 7:30 and Wesleyan had several chances to tie during the stretch but the Lord Jeffs never surrendered the lead. The Cardinals got no closer than five in the final 7:30 and the Jeffs pulled way by as many as 14 (82-68) in the final two minutes.
The next action for the Cardinals will be the opening weekend of NESCAC play, bringing Trinity to Middletown Fri., Jan. 14, followed by a rematch with Amherst Sat., Jan. 15. That contest will be webcast and can be viewed by clicking < here >.