MECHANICSBURG, Pa. – The Ursinus College men's basketball team put on a special defensive performance but was unable to generate enough on the other end in dropping a tense 54-50 battle to No. 24 Randolph-Macon in the opener of the Messiah Tip-off Tournament.
Ryan McTamney (14 points, 11 rebounds) and Ryan Hughes (11 points, 12 rebounds) each tallied a double-double for the Bears (2-1), who nearly backed up a season-opening championship at Lycoming with an early signature victory over a team that lost to eventual runner-up Swarthmore by one in last year's Sweet 16 and had outscored its first two opponents by over 30 points per game. Ursinus shook off a 14-point second-half deficit to lead 47-46 after a sweet baby hook by George Gordon with 2:58 remaining, but the Yellow Jackets scored on their next trip and held on from there.
The Bears will face the loser of the Messiah-Clarks Summit contest in Saturday's consolation game.
Strangely, a matchup of teams each averaging 79.0 points per game devolved into a tight defensive struggle. The first half especially was a rock fight, with Ursinus shooting 4 of 19 from the field and committing 13 turnovers but finding itself down just five (21-16) due to a clampdown effort that limited high-powered Randolph-Macon to just eight makes on 30 attempts from the floor.
The game opened up a bit after intermission, and the Yellow Jackets carved open a big lead with a 9-0 run to begin the frame, with Ian Robertson's triple making it 30-16 at the 17:56 mark.
Back came the Bears, who instantly sliced the margin down to eight with back-to-back treys from Jimmy Kpadeh and Bruce Edwards. After the Yellow Jackets re-established a double-digit spread at 35-23, Edwards' slicing lay-in capped a 7-0 Ursinus run to trim the deficit back down to five just shy of the midway mark.
Trailing 40-32 with 9:22 to go, the Bears embarked on an 11-0 spurt over the next four minutes, with Kpadeh finding Gordon and McTamney for buckets inside during the run and Edwards polishing off the major momentum switch with a pair of free throws.
Hughes answered a Randolph-Macon basket with one of his own to make it 45-42 with 4:30 to play, but Miles Mallory hit three straight shots around Gordon's hook shot to give the Yellow Jackets the lead for good.
Hughes scored on a tough drive to cut the Jackets' lead to 50-49 with 28 seconds left and made the first of two free throws for a 52-50 score with 17 ticks showing. Ursinus had a chance to tie or take the lead after Randolph-Macon misfired on the front end of a 1-and-1, but Hughes was called for a travel on his way to the rack. Following a series of fouls to put the Yellow Jackets in the bonus, Josh Talbert iced the game with two free throws.
Ursinus wound up holding Randolph-Macon to just 35.1 percent from the field (20 of 57) and a 6-for-29 mark from beyond the arc (20.7 percent). The Bears also owned a 41-33 edge on the glass, but were undone in large part by 22 turnovers, leading to a 23-7 advantage in points off turnovers for the foes.
The starting five did all the scoring for Ursinus, with Kpadeh and Gordon totaling nine apiece and Edwards adding seven.
Hughes secured his first career double-double by outpacing his previous rebounding mark by three, while McTamney notched his third such performance.