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February 18, 2010

BULLDOGS GET FIRST WIN OF SEASON IN THRILLING FASHION, TOP WAGNER, 53-51 ON THE ROAD THURSDAY NIGHT

February 18, 2010

BULLDOGS GET FIRST WIN OF SEASON IN THRILLING FASHION, TOP WAGNER, 53-51 ON THE ROAD THURSDAY NIGHT

Boxscore

STATEN ISLAND - It was the biggest stage freshman guard Raphael Jordan (Bel Air, Md.) has stood on in quite some time.

With just eight-tenths of a second left in regulation, tied at 51-51, the rookie stepped up to the line with a chance to not make history - and that, in this case, was a good thing.

All he needed to do to keep previously winless Bryant out of the annals of NCAA embarrassment was to make these two free throws. And just like that, he stepped up to the line a 65.5 percent free throw shooter and left a hero. Bryant had finally won.

In the faces of all the critics who said it wouldn't be done, and to the rejoice of those who said it could, the Bryant faithful released a cooperative, united sigh of relief as the final buzzer sounded and the scoreboard read GUEST 53, WAGNER 51.

After 26 winless games this season, Bryant's 53-51 victory seemed like winning the Super Bowl to a group of Bulldog players and coaches who truly refused to say die.

But it was almost the win that wasn't.

With under 20 seconds left and around a six-second differential between shot clock and game clock, junior Barry Latham (Taunton, Mass.) drove through the lane and passed the ball off to sophomore bigman Papa Lo (Thies, Senegal) under the basket, looking for a score to break the 51-51 tie.

But in a strange turn of events, Lo couldn't hold onto the pass, turning the ball over to sophomore Josh Thompson. But the clock panicked Thompson, and the forward - who led Wagner with 12 points on the night - took a desperation shot that simply wasn't needed, forgoing what should have been the chance at an easy layup to win the game and giving the Bulldogs back the ball with 4.1 seconds remaining, a play which set the stage for Jordan and first win of the season for the Black and Gold.

"Obviously I'm really happy, especially for the seniors," said second-year head coach Tim O'Shea. "They've hung in there in a way that, as a coach, I am so impressed with and appreciate.

"It hasn't been easy, but I've never had to coach attitude or effort, and that starts with your seniors," he continued. "Throughout all these many games and this losing streak and this impossible situation, they've hung in there and shown great leadership, and they deserve this. It's been the elephant in the room for us and now it's gone and I'm happy about that."

The Bulldogs (1-26, 1-14 Northeast Conference) played strong on both ends of the court throughout the entirety of regulation, taking a 28-23 lead into the halftime break.

Out of the intermission, the Bulldogs extended that lead to nine, 36-27, but Wagner (4-24, 2-13) would freeze Bryant at 36 while it took over the lead, 37-36, over a span of 5:06. But turnovers and faulty defense for the first time all contest allowed the Seahawks to continue their run, pushing their advantage to 39-36 before the Bulldogs got back on the board, a bank shot from Latham.

Bryant would get back out ahead with 7:19 remaining off a monumental three from sophomore Sam Leclerc (Fayette, Maine), 43-42, but rookie Vlad Kondratyev (Nikolayev, Ukraine) would miss a pair from the line, keeping the lead at just one. Less than a minute later, a Leclerc fast break layup, created by the heads-up play of senior Adam Paryzch (Lindenhurst, N.Y.), gave Bryant a three-point edge.

Wagner would knot the score at 48-48 with 3:36 to play, and take a one-point edge with 1:23 left on the clock, 51-50, forcing the Bulldogs to take their final timeout and to dig deeper than they had all season.

But O'Shea knew that his Bulldogs were getting the win before even stepping onto the floor in the second half.

"[I told them] we've got 20 more minutes and we've just got to keep playing," O'Shea said of his halftime talk. "But it's not what the coach says, it's the mood and the energy of the players, and I could tell we were ready for this."

The Bulldogs opened the game on a strong note, as senior Chris Birrell (Scituate, R.I.) put the Bulldogs out in front, 7-4, from way out near halfcourt when he found Kondratyev streaking under the basket for a free and easy layup with 16:56 on the clock.

But Wagner would catch up, holding a 14-13 edge midway through the frame. From there, the teams would go back and forth until a pair of missed free throws by Clifton Spiller at the 8:24 mark set up a Claybrin McMath (Adelaide, Australia) 3-pointer as the shot clock expired that would hand the Bulldogs the 20-19 lead with 7:48 to play. The three would kickstart an 11-2 run that would stretch through the four-minute mark.

The Bulldogs looked sharp on both ends of the floor throughout the first 20 minutes, causing seven turnovers while shooting 41.7 percent in the half. Offensively, the Bulldogs got a lift from McMath, who would lead the side at the break with seven points. After getting Bryant the 20-19 lead, the rookie forward gave the Black and Gold a 26-21 advantage with 5:16 to play with a catch-and-shoot rebound of a Jordan trey that rimmed out.

Bryant extended its lead to 28-21 - the biggest margin of the session - at the 4:14 mark after a pair of Leclerc makes from the charity stripe, and the visitors would take a 28-23 advantage into the locker room.

Birrell forced a big turnover from Spiller with 1:59 to go in the first half to keep the ball in Bryant's offensive end, and the team defense as a whole put up another big stop with just 15 seconds to play in the frame, forcing the Seahawks out of bounds in their own offensive end to keep a six-point edge after one period.

Kondratyev posted a game-high 14 points on perfect 6-of-6 shooting from the floor, while Jordan chipped in eight. Thompson and Chris Martin led the Seahawks with 12 points apiece. Bryant outrebounded Wagner on the day, 29-24, and shot 42.9 percent from the floor. Parzych dished out four assists for the Bulldogs while Lo posted a pair of blocks with another rejection from junior Michael Chroney (Nashua, N.H.).

The Bulldogs close out 2009-10 road action this Saturday (Feb. 20) when they travel to Emittsburg, Md. to take on Mount St. Mary's in a 7 p.m. matchup.

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