The men’s basketball team opened its season this past weekend by finishing as the runner-up in the Second Annual Herb Kenny Tip-Off Tournament at Silloway Gymnasium. On Friday, Nov. 15, the Cardinals bested the U.S. Coast Guard Academy 58-48, then fell to Dickinson College 79-63 in the tournament’s championship game the next day. Rashid Epps ’16 and Harry Rafferty ’17 led Wesleyan over the weekend, as both players earned all-tournament honors. Epps finished with 15 points and an impressive 17 rebounds in Friday’s win over Coast Guard, while Rafferty was also effective off of the bench in the win, scoring eight points.
The Cardinals started off strong on Friday, jumping out to a quick 15-6 lead before pulling away from the Bears with a barrage of three pointers in the first half. The Cards managed to score 12 points in a row on four consecutive treys to get out to a 27-13 lead with 8:33 remaining in the first half; the 14-point lead was Wesleyan’s largest of the day.
However, Coast Guard hung tough and cut the lead to as little as three points with just 3:20 left in the game. After the Bears missed a potential game tying three-pointer with 3:00 to play, Rafferty hit a shot from beyond the arc to pad Wesleyan’s lead. After another jumper from Rafferty to put the team up 54-48, the Cardinals were able to close out the win.
“I thought Harry Rafferty, in only his second college game, played at a really high level,” said Head Coach Joe Reilly. “I thought that he showed some really good things. I think that all of our freshmen are going to be really good, and he was the one who had the best chance with the most minutes, so he took advantage of it.”
On Saturday, Wesleyan squared off against Dickinson College for the championship. Dickinson entered the game as one of Division III’s top teams, receiving two top-25 votes in preseason polling. The Red Devils proved why, as their offensive attack ended up being too much for the Cardinals.
The game was fairly even through the first half, as both teams held leads and were tied four different times. After being tied at 22-22 with 4:39 left in the first half, Dickinson began to pull away, entering halftime with a six-point lead.
The Red Devils came out hot in the second half, as tournament MVP Steve Collins went on a tear, scoring 13 straight points to put his team out to a 46-35 lead fewer than four minutes into the half. Rafferty countered well for the Cardinals, scoring a team-high 21 points in just 19 minutes off the bench. Epps also added 14 points and a team-high eight boards, but the Cardinals could not come within eight points the rest of the way.
“We held our own for the majority of the game,” said forward PJ Reed ’17, who added two points, two rebounds, and a block in Saturday’s contest. “They went on a huge run, but it just goes to show that we can compete with the top teams in the country.”
Reilly was not pleased with the results of the tournement. “We’re disappointed we didn’t win the tournament,” Reilly said. “We give a lot of credit to Dickinson; they’re a very high level team. They’re ranked up there for a reason, but it was great to be challenged. I think it’s better to learn some of the lessons that we learned now than to play a team that’s not as good.”
Other strong performances on the weekend came from Chris Tugman ’15 and BJ Davis ’16, who each scored nine points in Friday’s game. Tugman was strong on the boards all weekend, as he pulled down nine rebounds against Coast Guard and five against Dickinson.
Next Thursday, Wesleyan will play its first road opponent at Emmanuel College, currently 0-2 on the year. Last season, Wesleyan beat the Saints easily by a score of 88-61. Coach Reilly said that he was looking to create more of an offensive presence on Thursday after a defense-heavy weekend.
“We didn’t score as many points as we wanted to [this past weekend],” Reilly said. “I think we want to play faster on the offensive end and fast-break more. It’s hard to win on the road against anybody, so it’ll be good to have our first road test. We’re going to have to play great to get the win.”