Shasha Brown '13 (#11, main photo) scored on a driving layup with 1:35 remaining, and was fouled, making it a three-point play to give homestanding Wesleyan a 59-58 lead and it stood up as the game-winning play as the Cardinals posted a 61-58 victory over Westfield St. Thurs., Dec. 9. It was the first meeting of the teams since 1984 and kept Wesleyan perfect against the Owls with a 5-0 record. It also improved Wesleyan's record this year to 8-1 while extending the team's win streak to six games. Up next was a visit to the Merchant Marine Academy Sat., Dec. 10 and the reward was a solid 75-53 triumph for the team's seventh win in a row and a 9-1 mark. Wesleyan is off to the second-best start in school history through 10 games.
Wesleyan built as much as an 11-point advantage in the first half vs. Westfield, pulling ahead 33-22 with 2:18 to go before halftime, but the Owls netted four of the final five baskets of the period to cut the gap to five, 35-30. Wesleyan maintained the lead for the opening 10 minutes of the second half before the Owls took their first lead in over 20 minutes with a second-chance bucket at 9:18 for a 46-45 Westfield lead. The Owls last led, 15-13, with 13:20 to go in the first half before the Cardinals rattled off 10 straight points in a span of 4:21 for a 23-15 lead.
After Westfield took its 46-45 advantage, the lead changed hands five times before the contest ended. The score was knotted, 56-56, with 2:34 left before a pair of Westfield free throws spotted the visitors a 58-56 lead with 2:13 remaining. Each team missed a scoring chance before Brown, who led Wesleyan with 15 points, gave the Cardinals the lead for good. Westfield was called for an illegal screen on its next possession and the Cardinals then missed a jumper with :58 to play. Westfield missed its next try but got the offensive board with :33 to go. Westfield missed a three-pointer with :06 to go and Cardinal Julian Harris '14 (#33, photo insert upper right) grabbed the defensive rebound, was fouled, and calmly made a pair of free throws for the final score. Westfield got off another long-range three-point attempt at the buzzer but it came up well short of the hoop.
Also hitting double-digits for Wesleyan was Derick Beresford '13 (#3, photo insert lower right) with 13 points and Jason Mendell '12 with 10. Glen Thomas '14 had eight boards to lead Wesleyan in that department.
At USMMA, Wesleyan rattled off 14 of the final 16 points of the first half, erasing its last deficit, 24-23, in taking a 37-26 lead into the locker room. Brown had five of the 14 points and Beresford chipped in with four. Brown finished the contest with a team-high 18 points while Beresford had 13. Brown canned seven of his nine field-goal attempts, including a 3-for-4 effort from behind the arc, and dished out five assists. Thomas again paced the Cardinals on the glass with 11 rebounds.
The Cardinals initialted the second half much as they ended the first, outscoring their host, 13-3, to take a commanding 50-29 lead less than five minutes into the period. Again it was Brown and Beresford doing the damage as they combined for 11 of the 13 points. The margin grew as large as 30 (63-33, 9:18 to go). Wesleyan snapped a four-game losing skid to USMMA while taking a 6-5 lead in the overall series.
Brown, the fastest Cardinal ever to reach 1,000 career points, doing so in 54 games, and the reigning NESCAC Player of the Week, climbed to #9 on the all-time Wesleyan scoring list, now with 1,102 points.
The Cardinals are off until Sat., Dec. 31 when they take on Buffalo St. in the first round of the Catholic U. Tournament. Catholic faces MCLA in the other first-round contest.
(Photos courtesy of SteveMcLaughlinPhotography.com)