Babson Park, Mass. -- Brandeis earned a 77-69 win over Salem State in the opening game of the "New England Big Four" Challenege on Saturday afternoon at Staake Gymnasium on the campus of Babson College. The Vikings (2-5) were once again led by Sean Bryan's 27 points while Hakeem Animashaun, who added 19 points on 7-9 shooting from the field, corralled nine rebounds. The Judges (4-1) will move on to the championship game and will face Babson at 4:00 PM. The Vikings, who won last year's tournament, will face Tufts in the consolation game at 2:00 PM.
Salem State held a slight 32-29 lead at the half as the two teams played a tightly contested game, which saw five lead changes over the first 20 minutes. Animashaun led all scorers with 13 first half points, going a perfect 5-for-5 from the field. The Vikings held their largest lead at 32-27 after a three-pointer by Bryan. However, Chandler Jones hit a layup with 16 seconds remaining to pull Brandeis to within three at the half. Salem State was 13-29 (44.8%) from the field, but just 2-10 (20%) from three-point range. Corey Sherman topped all scorers with 10 points for the Judges.
A 10-2 run by Brandeis to open the second gave the Judges a 39-34 lead at the 16:57 mark. Salem State battled back and following a free throw by Tyreik McCauley, the game was tied 41-41. A quick 8-2 burst by Brandeis provided some breathing room, but a Matt McCune three drew Salem State back to within three at 49-46. Once again the Judges took control, building a nine-point advantage, but a Bryan free thow had Salem State trailing by just four, 62-58 with 2:30 remaining.
Brandeis prevented any attempt at a comeback, going 12-14 from the line in the final minutes to ice the eight-point victory.
Corey Sherman had a game-high 24 points for Brandeis on 8-11 shooting while going 7-8 from the line. Collin Sawyer had 18 points a six boards for the Judges, who shot 26-54 (48.1%) from the field. McCauley finished with nine points and seven rebounds off the bench for the Vikings, who forced 20 turnovers, which led to 24 points.