(Wenham) The last two undefeated teams in the Commonwealth Coast Conference met at the Bennett Center on Saturday afternoon. When it was over (74-68), the Gordon College Fighting Scots (12-3/5-0) were still undefeated and the visiting Curry Colonels (7-9/4-1) were not.
After this game, I was very happy to have SID Matt Moran’s stats and could therewith confirm some of my in-game suspicions. More than any game this season, there were obvious highlights and lowlights for both teams.
The best for Gordon? They retrieved their 3-point game (11 for 21), which had vanished at Roger Williams (one for four) on Wednesday night. The usual suspects, Brady Bajema (five for eight) and Aaron Trigg (three for six) did most of the damage, although in a close game you dare not underestimate Austin Bentsen’s two for three, and Garrett Harden’s one for three.
Okay, that was the good news. The bad? How about 26 turnovers, including 16 in the first half. Many of the giveaways led to breakaway layups down the other end. I checked back four years and couldn’t find a game where the turnover bug reached such a level.
Yah, but why didn’t Curry win then? Believe me, they had their own problems. They didn’t score for the first 2 ½ minutes and trailed 10-0. Curry Coach Malcolm Wynn called a timeout and ranted and raved at his team in a fashion that had me remembering Mike Schauer. That early deficit was an obstacle that the Colonels never completely recovered from. They did tie the game in the second half but never held the lead.
The good news for Curry was the effectiveness of their pressure. Fortunate they were to be able to generate points that way because their shooting in the first half (27.3%) was nowhere near their usual 45%. Gordon had a 37-23 first half lead.
I suspected at halftime that Gordon wasn’t this good and Curry wasn’t this bad. The Scots had outrebounded Curry, 27-8, and the CCC’s 2nd leading scorer, Mark Mastrullo, who arrived with a 17.4 per game average, hadn’t scored yet.
Six minutes and forty seconds into the second half, Curry had outscored the Scots 16-3 and Mark Mastrullo had connected on a couple of three’s. His second trey was clearly from NBA range and made the score, 40-39. The final outcome was very much in doubt.
Curry did manage to tie the score at 46 with 11:40 to go but a Jeff Derr free throw followed and put Gordon back in front and they led thereafter thanks to some timely long-range accuracy. Every time Curry threatened, the Scots dropped a three into the mix. Their next six baskets were threes including the last two by Aaron and Austin unanswered that put Gordon on top 65-57 with 4 ½ left.
The Colonels really turned up the defensive heat the rest of the way with the intent to steal or force Gordon to make free throws. Remarkably, based on the way things were going turnover-wise up to that point, the Scots had just one turnover (3-second violation) over the closing 6 ½ minutes of play.
Maybe Curry was exhausted, they had played on Thursday against Amherst, or maybe Gordon was just more careful with the ball. Maybe it was a combination of both, but along with seven of ten free throws the Scots were in control in the end game and got the win.
Greg Walker (14 points/8 rebounds) had a field day facing one-on-one coverage in the first half, getting 12 of his points. Curry appeared to go into some sort of zone coverage down low in the second half and shut Greg down. However, the openings on the outside increased and the Scots were 7-for-14 from long distance in the second half.
Gordon has now won eight straight and with a 12-3 record should start getting some attention beyond the immediate area.
Aaron finished with a game-high 23 points and seven rebounds.
We saw Brady hobbling a bit at the end of the Roger Williams game. He seemed fine in this one, though, getting 21 points. Brady came into this one with the best 3-point shooting stats in the CCC and his 5-for-8 will keep him there. By my stats, his 1000-point club march is now at 967.
Ben Gaskill collected a game-high thirteen rebounds and gave 6’2” Philippe Jourdain a taller defender to deal with.
Mark Mastrullo was shut out in the first half but went wild in the second half with 22 points, including five three’s.
Jarrell Jackson (5’7” sophomore) added 19 points and had plenty to do with Curry’s early defensive successes.
Next up for the Scots is 5-10 non-league Newbury College on Tuesday night at 7PM at the Bennett Center.
Brady and Aaron each put in 38 minutes against Curry’s full-court pressure. Maybe their tired legs will get some rest for league games against New England College and Endicott later in the week.
I was at the Hall of Honor ceremony at the Peabody Marriot after the game. Gordon’s all-time basketball point scorer (Sarah DeLuca) was one of those honored.