Bears Come in the Clutch: Ursinus Reels Off Two Straight Victories

Photo by David Morgan

Adam Denn   


      Crunch time. Usually defined as the last 5 minutes of a basketball game, crunch time represents the most highly contested part of the sport, the end result of 35 minutes of draw-dropping athleticism and physicality. With all the pressure weighing upon this limited amount of time, many teams often find themselves folding, unable to withstand the intimidation of the moment. Crunch time therefore separates good teams from great ones, showing who is able to withstand a full 40 minute effort to secure victory. For about two weeks, Ursinus basketball has found themselves in their own version of crunch time, both on and off the court. The Bears sat at 9-10 going into the week, on the verge of missing the Centennial Conference playoffs for the first time in four years. But with two clutch victories, the Bears have vaulted themselves back into the playoff picture, all through coming through in the game’s most important moments. 

    It’s no secret that the Bears have always been an incredibly talented team offensively. With the conference’s leading scorer in Trevor Wall, as well as an entourage of weapons surrounding him, Ursinus has had a top three scoring offense in the conference for three straight years. The difference this year, however, has been the group’s ability to get to the line and make free throws: the Bears lead the conference in both attempts and percentage at the line with 436 at 72.5%. This advantage has played heavily into their ability to control games in these “crunch time” minutes, withstanding in these treacherous moments largely because of their efficiency at the line. Ursinus’s underclassmen have especially answered the call, with sophomore Nick Nocito hitting both at the line to extend the Ursinus lead to three with just 20 seconds left against Franklin and Marshall, only for sophomore Matthew Field to go 5-6 from the line in the team’s massive road win over Washington College. Through taking advantage of the opportunities the defense gives them, the Bears have soared over the competition. 

     While the Bears have experienced a lot of success over the past 3 years, a consistent struggle has been rebounding. With a smaller rotation made up of mostly guards, the Bears have struggled on the glass, finishing in the bottom half of the conference in back-to-back years respectively. But in both of Ursinus’ recent victories, their rebounding domination has been a key to victory, especially in the late minutes. Led by big man Cole Grubbs ‘25, the Bears have had a +2 and +9 rebounding advantage in the second half of both games, allowing them to control the pace of the game by dominating time of possession. They’ve also dominated in offensive rebounding late in games, allowing the team to extend possessions beyond the initial 24 seconds on a routine basis. If they’re able to continue their success on the boards, this Bears team could truly set themselves apart from their predecessors. 

        With just two weeks left in the regular season, the Bears sit at 5th in the Centennial Conference. The team looks secure in the playoff picture, with a 2 game lead and a tiebreaker over 7th ranked Dickinson, but a tough schedule awaits them. Ursinus faces powerhouse conference foes in Swarthmore and Gettysburg this coming week (Update from the editor: We defeated Gettysburg this past Saturday… Go Bears!), before going on the road against Muhlenberg and Dickinson to defend their playoff spot. The team will surely be tested over these next 2 weeks, as the conference battles for a strong finish to the regular season. But with the ferocity of the Bears in the game’s most important minutes, they seem ready for the challenges ahead.