Bryant Wins Conference Opener, Surpasses Win Total from Last Year
Junior SaBastian Townes (Chesapeake, Va.) scored 28 points and helped the Bryant University men's basketball team close the game on a 9-0 run for a 76-66 victory over St. Francis Brooklyn in Thursday's Northeast Conference opener at the Chace Athletic Center.
Junior Juan Cardenas (Medellin, Colombia) added career-highs of 12 points and eight rebounds as the Bulldogs opened NEC play with a victory for the first time since 2015-16. The Black & Gold made their final 14 free throw attempts of the contest.
Bryant 76, St. Francis Brooklyn 66
Records: Bryant (4-8, 1-0), St. Francis Brooklyn (8-6, 0-1)
Location: Chace Athletic Center (Smithfield, R.I.)
COACH GRASSO'S COMMENTS
"We didn't prepare a ton for Dartmouth and Iowa, per se. We were just worried about getting ourselves better over the 20 days [leading to NEC play.] In turn, we played well against Dartmouth and played very well and had a chance to beat Iowa. It carried over to today.
"We've gotten a lot tougher and a lot grittier. I had to change some things in my playing style – I was still trying to learn this team for a while, and it took me a while to figure some things out. The biggest thing is that they continue to practice hard, they compete every day, and they're starting to understand what it takes to win."
Bryant used a 17-5 run to turn a 13-12 deficit into a 29-18 advantage with 6:33 remaining in the first half.
With the Bulldogs trailing 56-54, the Bulldogs went on a 7-2 run with all seven points from Townes to take a 61-58 lead. Bryant would not trail again in the contest.
Bryant closed the game on a 9-0 run with all nine points coming at the line.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Bulldogs scored the first five points of the game on a three-point play from Townes and a layup by junior Adam Grant (Franklin, Va.).
Bryant led 14-13 on a Townes layup with 13:46 to play. Townes missed the free throw, but Cardenas was there for the offensive rebound, eventually finding Grant for a three-pointer.
The Bulldogs would push the lead to 11 at 31-20 on a pair of Cardenas free throws with 5:08 to play in the half.
The Terriers would grab the final six points of the half to head into the locker room at 37-34 Bryant.
St. Francis would continue the run into the second half with the first six points after the break to take a 40-37 advantage.
The teams traded the lead back and forth until a pair of Townes free throws put Bryant ahead 59-58 with 6:47 to go. Townes added two more on a layup to put the Bulldogs ahead three.
St. Francis tied the game at 65 with 2:55 to go before Townes responded with a drive to the basket to regain the lead.
Townes followed by knocking down all three free throws on a shooting foul to put the Bulldogs ahead 70-66 with 1:44 to play.
Bryant closed out the victory with four free throws from redshirt-senior Byron Hawkins (Fort Washington, Md.) and two from freshman Joe Kasperzyk (New Haven, Conn.).
Townes scored 28 points – six shy of his career-high – on 7-of-14 shooting, 1-for-1 from three and 13-for-16 from the free throw line.
Cardenas made both of his field goals and was 8-of-9 from the line to go along with eight rebounds and two blocks.
Hawkins added 13 points and Kasperzyk chipped in 10.
Bryant shot a season-best 50 percent from the floor – the Bulldogs' best since a 51.9 shooting percentage Feb. 10, 2018 vs. Mount St. Mary's.
The Bulldogs committed just 10 turnovers, marking the fifth time this season Bryant has limited itself no more than 10.
Bryant's 32 made free throws ranked second in a single game in the Bulldogs' Division I era, as did Townes' 13 makes and 16 attempts.
Cardenas' 17 blocks on the year are tied for 10th in a single season in Bryant's Division I era.
Bryant has held its opponents to 68.3 points per game over its last three contests.
The Bulldogs surpassed their 2017-18 win total with Thursday's victory.
Townes' performance was his seventh in his career of 20 or more points and third consecutive against mid-major opponents.
Kasperzyk is averaging 15.0 points per game in four contests off the bench while shooting 52.8 percent.
Bryant improves to 7-11 all-time against St. Francis Brooklyn and 7-3 at the Chace Athletic Center.
Bryant closes out the first weekend of NEC play Saturday at 4 p.m. when the Bulldogs host LIU Brooklyn at the Chace Athletic Center.
Season and single-game tickets for home games at the Chace Athletic Center are available by clicking HERE or calling (401) 319-TIXX.
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