COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. – The Ursinus College men's basketball team controlled most of the game, but faltered late as the Bears fell to Franklin & Marshall, 77-69 on Thursday night in a battle of Centennial Conference heavyweights.
Before a closing drought prevented them from grabbing a signature win against an undefeated Diplomats squad, the Bears (3-2, 1-1) led 63-49 with 8:13 to go thanks to a career-day from Zach Quattro. The senior forward tallied 25 points, surpassing his career-best of 22 from last year's CC playoff win at Johns Hopkins. He added six rebounds, three assists and a block to his line, including a 3-for-5 day from beyond the arc and an 11-for-15 effort from the field.
A 28-6 closing run from the Diplomats (6-0, 2-0) led to the loss, as F&M's star guard Brandon Federici found a rhythm as the final minutes ran down. After being held to one point in the first half, the three-time All-CC first team selection scored 20 in the second. Ignas Slyka kept the visitors within range for much of the night with a career-best 28 points.
The Bears' defense held the other half of the Diplomats' high-scoring duo in check, as Matthew Tate and Federici average nearly 40 points per game. Tate was held scoreless in the contest, shooting 0-for-4 from the field.
The Bears didn't show any signs of struggle until late. For much of the night, the offense was able to cut through the Diplomats' defense to find open looks inside the paint and out wide. The Red and Old Gold scored 40 of their points inside the paint.
The Diplomats left Quattro open a handful of times and Quattro made them pay. After F&M made the opening basket of the game, he was left unattended at the top of the key, where he sank a 3-pointer. He'd hit another several minutes later to give the Bears a 4-point lead.
While the outside shooting was working for Quattro, the Bears stayed to the plan of attacking the paint. Ursinus totaled 10 assists in the first half, with junior Eric Williams Jr. leading the way with three. Williams found Quattro for an open 3-pointer to open the game and closed out the first half with a feed to sophomore Shane Stark, who converted several easy lay-ins throughout the stanza.
Leading 34-31 at the break, Ursinus stretched its lead to 14 on a pair of free throws by senior Remi Janicot with 8:13 remaining. But the Bears went scoreless for nearly five minutes, allowing F&M to pull even when Federici capped a 14-0 burst with a twisting lay-up in the lane.
Stark and Quattro sandwiched buckets around a put-back by Matt Redhead to gain two more late leads, but a score by Slyka tied the score, and Federici's 3-ball from the left wing with 2:04 remaining put the Diplomats on top for good.
Ten of the Bears' 14 field goals in the first 20 minutes were assisted on, with six different players recording a helper. Ursinus stayed consistent, assisting on 10 more in the second half.
The defense was also creating much of the offense, forcing eight turnovers in the first half that equated to 12 points on the other end for Ursinus. A more-disciplined Diplomats offense prevented the Bears from scoring off turnovers in the second frame.
Stark was the only other Bear to reach double-digits, scoring 16 points to go with seven boards and three assists. It's the fourth game in a row in which Stark has put up double-digit points.
The Bears are on the road until January, as they travel to McDaniel Saturday before taking on No. 12 Swarthmore on Wednesday. Their next contest at home is January 9 versus Washington College.