WESTMINSTER, Md. – McDaniel had the upper hand for the middle 30 minutes of the Ursinus College men's basketball team's Centennial Conference clash on Tuesday night. But the Bears dominated the final five minutes of each half, and that was all that mattered.
Senior Eric Williams Jr. scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half, including the clinching free throws, and made a huge defensive play in the closing seconds to help Ursinus claw back from a 11-point deficit after intermission to earn a hard-fought 73-69 road victory.
The Bears (7-6, 4-2) held a 30-27 lead at halftime but saw that advantage erased as the Green Terror found an offensive groove with the play of Aaron Washington, who scored 20 of his game-high 26 points in the second half.
It was Williams who went head-to-head with Washington to score 13 points in the last frame of his own after a slow first half. The guard jumped to third all-time in CC history with three made 3-point field goals to increase his total to 275 career triples. He trails Franklin & Marshall's Brandon Federici by just 34 for the conference's all-time mark.
With over 11 minutes to play, the Bears looked to be caught in a rut as the Green Terror took over the lead and extended its largest advantage to 53-42. But it wasn't so as Ursinus bounced up from the canvas with five minutes left, facing an eight-point margin at 57-49. The Bears scraped all the way back, tying the game 61-61 after a quick 12-4 run with 3:47 remaining.
The final few minutes were frenetic as the Bears showed poise down the stretch to escape from the Gill Center winners in back-to-back years for the first time since the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Ursinus had lost eight straight inside the Gill Center before last year's overtime triumph. Three of the teams' last four meetings there have been decided by three points or less, and the other was the extra-time thriller a season ago.
Junior forward Shane Stark's no-look pass found sophomore Bruce Edwards in the paint for an and-one to knot the game. After a defensive stop, the Bears generated another 3-point play when freshman Ryan Hughes made a layup and the free throw to give the Bears a 64-61 lead with over three minutes remaining.
After a pair of technical foul freebies, McDaniel cut the lead to one-point, 64-63.
Hughes came up big once again with an offensive rebound of his own miss and was fouled. The diaper dandy made both free throws to get the Bears back up three with over two minutes to play, but a Bear turnover led to a McDaniel fast-break dunk to again dwindle the lead to one.
To break free of the pesky Green terror, junior Ryan McTamney buried his tenth point of the game on an open three-pointer from the corner courtesy of a beautiful find from Stark in the post.
The Green Terror (5-8, 1-5) made two free throws before the Bears broke the full-court pressure easily for a layup by Hughes to go up four points with 52 seconds remaining.
Washington made a bucket to get the Green Terror once again with two points at 71-69, and McDaniel's Mike Wallace knocked the ball free from behind as Williams dribbled up the court with 28 seconds left. The Green Terror then called a timeout to set things up. Wallace penetrated to the basket and was blocked by Hughes before Caleb Johnson corralled the ball. Johnson was ultimately rejected by sophomore Bruce Edwards with Williams coming down with the ball to prevent a potential game-tying bucket with the Bears clinging to a two-point edge.
Williams put the game on ice with a pair of free throws. The Bears shot a superb 17-of-20 (85%) from the line.
Before outscoring McDaniel, 22-10, over the last five minutes and change, Ursinus closed the last 4:38 of the first half on a 7-0 run. All told, it was a 29-10 discrepancy during the last five minutes of each period.
The second half was filled with made shots, much different from the first half as both teams struggled to get things going. With both squads coming off potent offensive displays of the 90-plus point variety, offense was difficult to come by in the first half of play. Each side struggled to find a rhythm, especially from long range.
In an evenly played first half, both teams made 12 field goals each. The Green Terror went 12-of-30 for 40 percent overall and 3-of-11 (27.3%) from three. The Bears attempted one more shot than McDaniel, going 12-of-31 (38.7%) from the floor and 2-of-10 (20%) from beyond.
Sophomore George Gordon led the Bears with 10 points on 5-of-8 from the floor and five boards in the first half. Gordon finished with 12 points and six boards.
McDaniel center Caleb Johnson chipped in 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting.
Each team hovered around 44-percent shooting overall with 16 turnovers each. The Bears shot 6-of-15 (40%) from three-point range. With the two top long-range percentage shooters in the conference, McDaniel shot 7-of-22 (31.8%) from beyond.
The Bears are back in action Thursday night when they host Centennial Conference leader Johns Hopkins, which suffered its first conference loss against Muhlenberg on Tuesday. A win against the Blue Jays would guarantee the Bears a share of first place in the conference standings.