The Bears pulled off the biggest upset of the Centennial Conference regular season on Jan. 19, beating nationally ranked #10 Swarthmore, a long-time conference foe, 94-88.
Ursinus had faced Swarthmore nine times since the 2015-2016 season. They had lost all nine of those matchups with the Garnet. Therefore, for senior players who were on the team for all of those losses, this win meant something a little more than other regular season conference wins.
“It definitely felt [like a monkey off our back]. Swarthmore was the only team we haven’t beaten since I’ve been a freshman so it was great to be able to finally knock them off,” said senior guard Zack Muredda, who finished the game with 11 points.
The Bears had to play arguably their best game of the season in order to finally take down the Garnet. They trailed 42-37 at halftime, but it seemed as if the Bears couldn’t miss in the second half, as they shot an incredible 65.2 percent from the field
They were led by senior guard Eric Williams, who was awarded Centennial Conference Player of the Week for averaging 21.0 points on 65-percent shooting for that week against Swarthmore and Gettysburg. Against Swarthmore, though, his thrilling 30-point performance, including five three pointers and shooting 9-9 (100 per- cent) from the free throw line made the biggest difference.
“I definitely think this was my best game [of my career],” Williams said. “It was my best game because it was against a ranked team and not a team that nobody has ever heard of. It was a game that we knew every shot counted and we all had to trust one another. My team trusted me to make tough shots and continued to give me the ball almost every other possession.”
Williams wasn’t the only player with a big offensive night, however. Junior forward Shane Stark had an impressive performance from the low post, putting up 21 points and nine rebounds. Junior guard Ryan McTamney added 19 points, three rebounds, and two assists of his own. Ursinus ended with all five starters scoring in double figures.
“We were able to play with a pace that helped our offense and helped our rhythm. We are at our best when the ball is moving and we are making plays for each other. We were able to get some easy looks and converted on them,” Muredda said.
“We are learning how to play together and we wanted to begin to play our best basketball in January and for the most part, I believe we are playing with a chip on our shoulders. We know we are good, and we have a trust in each other that is incredible,” said Williams.
Williams Jr. backed up his Player of the Week honors in the Bears’ win over McDaniel on Feb. 2. He led the game in scoring with 25 points, including seven second half three-point field goals.
The Bears certainly are playing their best basketball right now, as their wins over Swarthmore and McDaniel are now a part of a seven game win streak nearing the end of the regular season. Ursinus is currently tied atop the Centennial with Swarthmore and Johns Hopkins with an 11-3 record in the conference.
Ursinus will travel to Baltimore, Md. this Saturday, Feb. 6, to square off against Johns Hopkins. They’ll make their return to Helfferich Gymnasium on Feb. 13 against Muhlenberg College.