KINGS POINT, N.Y. – A game that started out so optimistically turned into a long afternoon for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy on Saturday afternoon.
After battling talented and favored Wesleyan University close for most of the opening half, the Mariners fell victim to the quick and talented Cardinals en route to a 75-53 loss in a men's non-conference basketball encounter at Liebertz Gymnasium.
After he was held to six first-half points, guard Shasha Brown turned it on for the Cardinals (9-1) in the second half, scoring 12 points to finish with 18 to go along with five assists. Derick Beresford and Jason Mendell added 13 points apiece.
The Mariners kept pace with the Cardinals in the early going, nailing five three-point shot in the opening 9:19 to grab 17-14 advantage. Buck led the way with three long-range baskets and Kevin Kerr, Frank Wiseley and Patrick Farrell chipped in with one each. However, their lack of finishing closer to the basket eventually caught up with the hosts.
The tide of the game turned after Mariners forward Nick Sergio was forced from the game with a leg injury with 7:39 remaining in the half. At the time, the Mariners enjoyed a 22-21 lead. After Mike Callaghan sank a basket for Wesleyan and Buck converted two free throws, the Cardinals went on 14-2 tear to close out. Beresford and Brown led the way with a five points and a three-point apiece. Brown's long-range shot at the buzzer boosted the visitors into a 37-26 halftime lead.
The Cardinals never relented in the second half, taking advantage of missed Mariners shots and turnovers while going on a 15-3 spurt to grab a 52-29 advantage with 15:05 remaining in the game. The main culprits for the visitors during this streak were Beresford, who tallied six points, and Brown, who added five.
Wesleyan led by as many 30 points – at 68-38 with 6:45 left before the Mariners closed the gap in the waning minutes to make the score more respectable.
The Mariners connected on only 31.6 percent of their shots (18-57) and only on 50 percent of their free throws (8-16), compared to Wesleyan's torrid 58.3 percent shooting from the field (28-48) and 78.6 percent from the foul line (11-14).
Wesleyan outrebounded Merchant Marine, 38-25, especially on the defensive boards, 32-14. Glen Thomas (six points) led the Cardinals with 11 rebounds.
The Mariners hit the road and play at the City College of New York at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
Photo: Reed Buck once again led the Mariners with 21 points. Photo by Shawn Antonelli