Brown men defeat Bryant and Hartford to extend winning streak to four

Senior guard Paxson Wojcik (32) has hit three treys in each of Brown’s last two games – both wins – going 6-for-14 from three-point range and scoring 37 points at Bryant and Hartford. (Photo by Erica Denhoff)

Despite missing two of their starting five for this weekend’s games, the Brown men came away with two convincing road victories against Bryant and Hartford.

The Bears (5-4), winners of four straight wins and five of their last six, are playing their best basketball of the year as they head into the last and hardest stretch of their nonconference schedule.

Against Bryant, which beat Brown at the Pizzitola Sports Center last year and Syracuse at the JMA Wireless Dome (the new name for the Carrier Dome) earlier this season, the Bears jumped out to a quick 9-0 run and extended it to 26-7 at the second media timeout.  They eventually stretched the lead to a game-high 24 points before entering the locker room with a 44-24 advantage.

The Bulldogs managed to cut the deficit to nine late in the second half, but they never really made a serious challenge. The Bears won, 72-60.

Paxson Wojcik, one of four Brown starters in double figures, finished with a career- and game-high of 18 points.  Kino Lilly, Jr. and Kalu Anya ended with 15 each, while Aaron Cooley, replacing junior Dan Friday, added 14.  Malachi Ndur, starting up front in place of Nana Owusu-Anane (concussion protocol), had a game-high nine boards, against one of the nation’s top rebounding teams.

As a group, the starters committed only eight turnovers, a big plus against a Bryant team that entered the night number two in the country in adjusted tempo.

Wojcik had a successful encore on Sunday afternoon, when he had a new career high of 19 points on 8-for-12 shooting and a second straight KenPom game MVP.  He added six assists and four rebounds.

The Bears didn’t get quite as quick a start against the Hawks as they did against Bryant, but they opened up a 10-point lead halfway through the half. Hartford battled back, cutting the lead to five, 25-20, after the opening 20 minutes.

The second half was a different story as Brown took control and opened up a 58-37 advantage, after a Kimo Ferrari three with 8:30 left in regulation.  The home team made one last run, but it never got the game into single digits. Bruno walked away with a 64-51 victory.

In the two wins, the Bears shot over 50% both games with a combined 72% (36-for-50) from inside the arc and 35% (18-for-51) from downtown.  On the year, Brown is now 88th from two (53.1%) and 142nd from three (34.4%).

Meanwhile, they limited their two opponents to 48% (35-for-73) from close range, and 23% (8-for-35) from outside the arc.  This was a big improvement on the season’s numbers and cut the year’s metrics to 53.3% (No. 278) and 32.6 (No. 145), respectively.

If there’s one area that needs significant improvement on the offensive side, it’s the free throw shooting.  The Bears only hit 46% (11-for-24) of their chances at the charity stripe in the two games and are hitting 55.4% (No. 362) overall.

Bruno, which is number one in the country in defensive rounding with 81.1%, secured 80% against Bryant and Hartford.  The offensive side, however, isn’t as strong with the team grabbing 20% over the weekend and 24.4% (No. 294) for the year.

While things are going well for Bruno, the squad will certainly need the depth and talents of Owusu-Anane (30 minutes, 10.6 points, 7.7 rebounds per game) and Friday (23 minutes, 9.8 points, 71% free-throw percentage), as it enters the most significant part of their schedule.

The Bears will face another in-state rival, Rhode Island, Wednesday night before heading to East Lansing for the first of two games against Big Ten opponents.  The Saturday contest against Michigan State (KenPom No. 36) will also pit Wojcik against his father, Doug, the lead assistant coach on Tom Izzo’s staff.

Following the final exam break, Mike Martin’s team will welcome New Hampshire on the 21st and then head out to Chicago for a matchup against Northwestern (KenPom No. 74) eight days later.

The Bears will need to regroup quickly as they get ready to start their quest for a first-ever appearance in Ivy Madness by welcoming Penn on January 2.