The men’s basketball team began its 2016 to 2017 campaign last Tuesday with an 87-78 victory at home against Suffolk University. The squad relied on much of its core from last season while also nicely rotating in new complimentary players. 

Much like he has for the last two seasons, star forward Jordan Cooper ’18 used his versatile skills to play an all-around game for the Judges. Suffolk had little chance when guarding Cooper, between matching him up with a big man to counter his 6 feet 6 inch frame or masking him with a quick guard to stay on the ball; Cooper had an easy time throughout the night. The matchup nightmare scored a game-high 21 points, 17 of which came in the second half alone in the game’s most critical portion. Cooper collected most of his points from behind the three-point arc, where he shot a superb 5-7. 

In addition to Cooper, on Tuesday, guard Robinson Vilmont ’17 demonstrated why he was the Judges’ second leading scorer last season, after Cooper. Vilmont was able to capitulate his superior speed and court awareness into fast break opportunities and open shot attempts. He recorded 16 points in the effort and, most importantly, came away with a career high of 13 rebounds. The double-double was the first of his collegiate career as he begins his senior season. In addition to grabbing more rebounds than anyone on the court for either team, Vilmont also assisted on a game-high six dimes. 

Cooper and Vilmont were not the only starters to post impressive statistics. Both guards Tim Reale ’17 and Nate Meehan ’17 added 15 points, much of which came from their joint 11-13 shooting from the free throw line. Meehan especially heated up for the Judges, converting on three 3-pointers. While the team’s shooting touch was on full display, Brandeis’ play was not pretty during the entire contest. With the beginning of the season come the first game jitters, and they were apparent, especially early in the matchup. The squad was sloppy in the passing lanes, turning the ball over at an alarming rate of 17 times. Luckily for them, Suffolk had much of the same problem, recording 16 turnovers of their own. 

What helped the Judges overcome their turnover issues and eventually beat Suffolk was the added contribution from players new to the Brandeis program. Guard Brian Mukasa ’19, in his first game for the squad after transferring from Post University, scored seven points while recording three assists. 

Most promising for the team was the exceptional play of two first years off of the bench. Highly touted guards Eric D’Aguanno ’20 and Collin Sawyer ’20 lived up to their expectations in their first collegiate game. D’Aguanno entered play first and quickly hit upon a 3-pointer with a beautiful stroke. Sawyer quickly matched him with a three of his own, which was soon followed by another long ball from behind the arc and a subsequent perfect two-point jump shot. The duo combined for 11 of the team’s 13 total points from the bench. The team will be looking for a continuation of impressive play from this crop of new players, and the future looks bright for the program. 

As the Judges continue their season, home court advantage, propelled by a hopefully energetic fan base, could go a long way. The Judges will be forced to travel on the road for the squad’s next game, which will be at Rhode Island College. Last season, the team throttled Rhode Island 85-58 also early in the year.