Bruin rally comes up just short
The George Fox men's basketball team showed a lot of promise in its season opener against Rutgers-Newark, but couldn't overcome a second-half slump and fell 83-80 at home to the Scarlet Raiders.
The Bruins led by as many as 10 points early in the second half, but the offense went missing and the visitors took advantage, ripping off a 20-4 run to pull ahead 60-54 with 8:36 to play.
Rutgers-Newark pushed its advantage to 10 points over the next minute and a half and took an eight-point advantage into the final minute.
At that point, the George Fox offense came alive, pushing for a furious rally that fell short when guard Mason Green-Richards' missed a game-tying three-pointer with four seconds left.
"I felt there was a stretch where we really were going to control the game, probably around the 12-minute mark and we just got out of what we do," GFU coach Maco Hamilton said. "Especially offensively, we were really bad, really stagnant, took a lot of bad shots, had some turnovers and I think we allowed them to get back into the game. Then they got that momentum and all of a sudden we panicked a little bit and just never really got back into it until the last little desperation run."
The Scarlet Raiders (1-1) opened the game on a 9-0 run, but the Bruins (0-1) responded with a 12-3 spurt to tie the contest with 13:43 to play in the first half.
George Fox stayed hot, pulling ahead 22-14 over the next five minutes and the Bruins stayed in control for the remainder of the half before hitting the locker room with a 37-32 advantage.
Green-Richards led the Bruins with 11 points and four steals in the first half, but he was just getting warmed up. The junior went on to shoot 7 for 11 from the floor, including three-for-four on three-pointers, in the second half to tack on 20 more points and finish with a career-high 31.
"He's put in a lot of work and has been doing a really good job," Hamilton said. "I think he kind of got lost in the shuffle last year with J.J. and Thomas, but he's a kid that can score very well and he demonstrated that tonight. He's done a great job and we're going to need that from him."
George Fox certainly needed that kind of effort from Green-Richards in the second half, as the offense got bogged down for long stretches, including a stretch of nearly five minutes where the Scarlet Raiders outscored the Bruins 14-0.
"They're a good team and when that momentum shifts, it's tough to keep up with it," Green-Richards said. "We just have to lock down, grab rebounds, make more shots, contest more shots."
Green-Richards fueled the last-minute rally, grabbing a steal following a Dylan Hamlett layup and sinking a three-pointer to cap an 8-2 run over just 29 seconds.
That left the Bruins trailing 80-78 with 20 seconds to play and the Scarlet Raiders missed one of two ensuing free throws to keep hope alive.
Green-Richards responded with a layup at the other end with to make it 81-80 with five seconds to play.
Erick Lofton-Harris, who led Rutgers-Newark with 27 points, hit both of his free throws to push the lead back to three points and the Scarlet Raiders survived when Green-Richard's three-pointer at the buzzer was off the mark.
"We had opportunities where we really could have stretched the lead," Hamilton said. "Those are things we're going to have to remain confident with. We got shots we wanted to get at times, so we just have to do a better job of converting them."
Hamlett added 14 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks and three steals for George Fox, which shot 40.8 percent for the game, while Rutgers-Newark got hot in the second half, hitting 15 of its 27 attempts from the floor (55.6 percent) and 18 of 23 free throws.
"We have a lot of potential," Green-Richards said. "It's just about putting the pieces together, working hard in practice and doing what the coaches need us to do. We have to buy in completely, work hard and the rest will take care of itself."