Matching his career-high for points with 15 while grabbing a career-best 17 rebounds, Rashid Epps '16 (#00, right side photo) helped power the Cardinals past Coast Guard, 58-48, in the first round of the second annual Herb Kenny Tip-Off Tournament at Wesleyan Fri., Nov. 15. The events was sponsored by the Sheraton Hartford South Hotel in Rocky Hill. The win propelled the Cardinals into the championship game Sat., Nov. 16 against Dickinson, which overwhelmed MCLA, 91-55, in its opener. Dickinson went on to down Wesleyan for the title, 79-63. Both Epps and Harry Rafferty '17 (#22, left side photo) found a spot on the all-tournament team.
Wesleyan jumped out to an 11-4 advantage over Coast Guard 7:10 into the contest and led by as many as 14 (27-13, 7:05 left in the first half) before a Coast Guard rally narrowed the difference to just six, 31-25, shortly before intermission. While Wesleyan led 33-25 at the break, the Bears got as close as four, 35-31, early in the second half and made it a three-point game, 42-39, midway through the second period.
While a pair of Epps baskets aided Wesleyan in forging a 49-40 edge, the turning point of the contest came after Coast Guard again slipped as close as three, 49-46, with 3:20 remaining. A big three-pointer from Rafferty with 2:38 to go, and another Rafferty bucket at the 1:22 mark gave the Cardinals a comfortable 54-46 lead. Over the space of Rafferty's baskets, Coast Guard missed six straight free throws and Wesleyan added four more points in the final 32 seconds to seal the win in the first meeting between the in-state rivals since 2001.
Raffery ended the game with eight points while BJ Davis '16 and Chris Tugman '15 each added nine. Tugman also snagged eight caroms as Wesleyan enjoyed a 46-28 margin on the glass.
In the first-ever meeting between Wesleyan and Dickinson, tournament MVP Steve Collins rattled off 13 straight points for his team at the start of the second half as Dickinson turned a 33-27 halftime advantage into a 46-35 lead and never let Wesleyan get closer than eight the rest of the way. The lead reached 17, 59-42, with 11:16 remaining. Wesleyan got 21 points from Rafferty as he went 8-for-15 in the contest and sank three treys. Epps had 14 points and a team-best eight rebounds. Wesleyan did recover from an early 11-4 deficit to take a brief lead, 17-15, but the Red Devils broke away from a 22-22 tie with nine straight points en route to their six-point halftime edge.
The Cardinals began a string of five straight games away from home when they headed to Emmanuel Thurs., Nov. 21 for a battle with the Saints. Wesleyan emerged a 72-61 winner, upping the Cardinals' supremacy over the Saints to 8-1 all-time. Wesleyan led from start to finish, jumping ahead, 9-2, after 3:30 of play and holding as much as a 15-point bulge (28-13) in the first half before settling for a 36-28 halftime advantage. Wesleyan took a 12-point lead into the final 13 minutes but Emmanuel whittled the margin down to four, 51-47, with a three-pointer at the 9:21 mark. That ignited a 12-1 Cardinal run over the next 4:38, putting the Cardinals comfortably ahead, 63-48, with 4:43 to play. Rashid, who finished the game with his second double-double of the year behind 14 points and 17 rebounds, and Rafferty each had four points during the decisive stretch. Rafferty matched Epps for the team lead with 14 points, going a perfect 12-for-12 at the line. Davis and PJ Reed '17 both hit double-digits in scoring with 10 points apiece. In the balanced attack, Joe Edmonds '16 added eight points and seven rebounds to the cause while Brian Bartner '16 also had eight points.
The opening Little Three game of the year came as the Cardinals visited Williams Sat., Nov. 23. There Epps produced his third double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds, Rafferty continued his hot hand with a team-high 19 points while Glen Thomas '14 came through with 16 points on 8-for-8 shooting from the field along with eight rebounds. But despite shooting better than 50 percent from the field during the game, Wesleyan found itself in a 29-12 hole 7:30 into the game and never fully recovered as Williams captured a 91-74 win.
A strong 32-15 finish to the half cut the Ephs' margin to just four points at halftime, 48-44. That was as close as the Cardinals would come as Williams used a 21-8 start to the second half to pull out to a 69-52 lead, and the Cardinals got no closer than nine the rest of the way.
Up next for the squad is a trip to Elms Tues., Nov. 26 for a first-ever matchup with the Blazers.