Second Half Comeback Pushes Salem State Past Men's Basketball, 77-67, Saturday Afternoon

MEDFORD – The Tufts men's basketball team couldn't hold on to a first half lead, falling to Salem State in the New England Big Four Challenge in Cousens Gym on Saturday afternoon.  The Jumbos will now face Brandeis in the consolation game of the tournament on Sunday. 

Thomas Lapham had a team-high 13 points for the Jumbos.

Salem State improves to 5-2 with the win and will take on Babson in the championship game of the tournament on Sunday.  Tufts is now 3-3 with the setback. 

Salem State came out and grabbed an early lead.  Two free throws and then a layup from Drew Healy, followed by a free throw from Tyreik McCauley and then another layup and a free throw from Healy gave the visitors the 11-4 lead about five minutes into play.  

The Jumbos got a three from sophomore Eric Savage, and after another Healy layup, Tufts answered with a jumper from Savage and two from sophomore Miles Bowser to come within two, 13-11, with just under 14 left in the half.  A layup from senior captain Vincent Pace less than a minute later tied the game at 13 with 13:01 left in the half. 

The two teams then traded threes as Sean Bryan made one for Salem State and freshman Justin Kouyoumdjian sunk one for the Jumbos to lock the game at 16 again.  Pace then grabbed a defensive rebound on the other end of the court and put the Jumbos ahead 19-16 with a layup and the made free throw with just over 12 minutes left in the half.  

Salem State tied things at 22 with 8:30 on the clock thanks to a layup from Alexander Santos.  But, then freshman Will Brady put the home team ahead with a three.  Up, 25-23 with 7:24 on the clock, the Jumbos went on a ten point unanswered streak over the next five minutes to build a 35-12 lead.  Bryan broke up the scoreless streak for the Vikings, with a layup with 2:31 left in the half.  The Jumbos would go into the break with a 14-point advantage, 44-30.  

Savage led the Jumbos in the first half with ten points and seven rebounds.  Healy was the first half leader for the Vikings with nine points and four boards.  The Vikings struggled shooting in the first half, shooting just 28.6% and 20% from three-point range.  The Jumbos shot 51.6% from the field in the first half and 75% from the free throw line. 

The Vikings came out of the half on fire.  McCauley made back-to-back layups to bring the visitors within ten. The two teams traded points a bit, and the Jumbos were up 52-48 with 14:47 left in the game.  Sean Bryan made a layup followed by two free throws from Santos and then a three from Bryan.  After two points from freshman Max Oppenheim for the Jumbos, the Vikings got two free throws from Healy and then a layup from Rayshawn Matthews to come within five, 54-49.  Healy would add a dunk, and a short while later made one of two free throws to cut the lead to two, 54-52.  

A layup from Bryan tied the game at 54 with just over nine minutes remaining.  Bowser made one of two at the line to give the Jumbos the lead again, but then McCauley put the visitors ahead for the first time in the second half, 56-55.  After an Everett Dayton layup gave the Jumbos the lead again, McCauley struck again, putting the Vikings on top, 58-57.  Shaquan Murray followed that with four points of his own and the Vikings were up, 62-57.  The Jumbos would come within four, but Salem State hung on for the 77-67 win. 

The Jumbos struggled shooting in the second half, shooting just 26.7% from the field and 16.7% from behind the arc.  It was a different story for the Vikings, who struggled in the first half but shot 52.9% in the second half.  

Senior Thomas Lapham was the point leader for the Jumbos with 13 and added four rebounds and three assists.  Pace finished with a double-double for the Jumbos with 11 points and 11 rebounds.  Savage added 12 points and eight boards, and Bowser turned in nine points and five rebounds. 

Bryan had a game-high 21 points for the visitors.  Healy finished with 18 points and ten rebounds, and McCauley turned in 13 points and six boards.  Santos had ten points and Murray added eight points and four assists.    

The Jumbos are back in action on Sunday when they take on Brandeis at 1 pm in the consolation game of tournament play.  Salem State faces off with Brandeis at 3 pm on Sunday for the tournament title.