Men’s Basketball Shakes Off Slow Start to Pull Off Comeback Over First Place Jefferson

Credit: Tom Weishaar
Credit: Tom Weishaar

PHILADELPHIA – The University of the Sciences men's basketball team overcame a 16-point first half deficit, 11-point halftime deficit and 12-point second half deficit to knock off Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) Southern Division leaders Jefferson, 64-54, on Saturday afternoon and create a tie atop the division.

Jefferson (10-7, 5-1 CACC) came out with the first nine points in just 2:22 and established the largest lead of the game, 20-4, just 9:09 into play.

Brandon Starr hit back-to-back 3-pointers, the second coming with 9:39 on the clock, to get USciences within 10, but the Devils could not get the deficit into single-digits in the first half getting only as close as 11 four times, including when JJ Melchior nailed a triple just five seconds ahead of the halftime buzzer to make the score 33-22.

Will Gregorits converted a 3-point play 24 seconds out of the locker room to make it a single-digit game for the first time since the 13:04 mark of the first half, but Jefferson came right back with five of the next six points for its largest lead of the second half, 38-26, with 18:07 on the clock.

From there, University of the Sciences (9-5, 5-1) would outscore the Rams 38-16 over the final 17:49.

It began with eight straight points that were capped off by back-to-back Brendan Crawford jumpers, the second making the score 40-36 with 14:20 remaining.

Jefferson held on to its two-possession advantage over the next six-plus minutes until Starr made a 3-ponter to get USciences within two, 45-43, at the 7:45 mark.

1:04 later Tanner Kerr tied the score for the first time all afternoon and then with 6:02 showing, Starr was fouled on a 3-point shot and he would make all three free throws for the Devils' first lead.

Following a Jefferson turnover, a Flo Da-Silva layup capped a 13-0 run over 3:30 that put the the Devils on top 50-45 with 5:20 left.

Jefferson got as close as one, 50-49, with the next four points, but Starr had one final answer with yet another trifecta to make it a two-possession game for good with 2:51 to go.

That capped a 15-point performance for the freshman, who hit a USciences' season-high four 3-pointers for his second-highest scoring output of the campaign.

He trailed only Gregorits in the scoring column as the senior recorded 10 rebounds and four assists in addition to his 17 points, which included making 7-of-7 from the line. It was his third consecutive double-double and seventh of the season, as well as his fourth straight double-digit rebounding output and sixth in the last seven games.

Da-Silva fell two rebounds shy of his fifth double-double of the season with 13 points. He made 3-of-3 free throws and added three assists and a steal.

Kerr came off the bench to contribute eight points and six rebounds, both of which were one shy of a career-high.

He also made 2-of-2 foul shots as University of the Sciences made 16-of-17 as a team for its best percentage, 94.1, with double-digit makes since making a perfect 17-of-17 in a win at Felician on Feb. 1, 2014.

In addition to a major advantage at the line as Jefferson only made 6-of-10, USciences outrebounded the Rams 41-30 and had a 23-2 edge in bench points behind the contributions from Starr and Kerr.

Crawford played a major part in that rebounding total as he tied a new season-high with eight.

University of the Sciences faces its first CACC North team this season when it travels to Bloomfield for an 8 p.m. tip on Wednesday, Jan. 10.