Men's Basketball

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Men's Basketball Fends Off Salem State to Reach Big 4 Challenge Title Game, 81-75

Men's Basketball Fends Off Salem State to Reach Big 4 Challenge Title Game, 81-75

SALEM, Mass.—Senior Jack Coolahan (Newtown, Pa.) scored 22 points and sophomore Colin Bradanese (Billerica, Mass.) added a career-high 18 points to help Babson College defeat Salem State University, 81-75, on the opening day of the New England Big 4 Challenge on Saturday afternoon inside Twohig Gymnasium.

With the win, Babson improves to 8-0 and advances to Sunday's tournament final for the seventh consecutive season. Salem State drops to 1-7 on the year with its sixth consecutive loss.

Senior Frank Oftring (North Attleboro, Mass.) recorded his second straight double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Beavers. Oftring also blocked two shots and junior Crew Ainge (Wellesley, Mass.) led all players with six assists.

Senior Hakeem Animashuan (Dedham, Mass.) finished with 22 points and 14 rebounds to pace the Vikings. First-year Jaden Castillo (Lawrence, Mass.) added 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting, while sophomore Fern Berard (Malden, Mass.) chipped in with 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting to go along with a game-high five steals.

Both teams shot better than 50 percent from the floor in a first half that featured four ties and 10 lead changes. Despite connecting on just 3-of-13 attempts from beyond the arc, Salem State outscored Babson 13-2 at the free throw line and forced 12 turnovers to lead 44-42 at the break.

Junior Andrew Jaworski (Tolland, Conn.) scored on the opening possession of the second half, but the Vikings responded with an 8-1 spurt that included a pair of hoops by Animashuan to take their biggest lead of the afternoon at 52-45 with 17:36 remaining. Sophomore James Welch (Needham, Mass.) and Oftring sandwiched three-pointers around a bucket by Coolahan to pull within one just over a minute later, and Coolahan tied the game at 58-58 with another triple at the 13:08 mark.

The Green and White took its first lead since late in the first half on a layup by first-year Andrew Kirkpatrick (Winnetka, Ill.) with just under nine minutes to go, and five straight points by Oftring kept the Beavers in front 69-67 with 6:59 to play. Bradanese and Animashaun traded buckets on four straight possessions, and Oftring and Coolahan drilled back-to-back triples to extend the Babson lead to 79-75 with 2:53 left.

Coolahan scored inside on the Beavers' next trip and Salem State ended the game by missing its final nine field goal attempts.

Babson, which shot 50.8 percent for the game, held a 41-33 edge on the glass and outscored the Vikings 38-26 in the paint.

Both teams are back in action on Sunday as the Beavers face Tufts in the 2 p.m. championship game, while Salem State and Brandeis meet in the consolation game at 12 p.m.

• Babson is 8-12 all-time against Salem State, which includes a 4-4 mark against the Vikings in the Big 4 Challenge.
• Saturday's halftime deficit was the first for the Beavers going back to February 6 of last season.
• Coolahan, who has scored in double figures in five consecutive games, is shooting 46.3 percent (19-of-41) from beyond the arc during this stretch.
• Babson has shot better than 50 percent from the floor in six of its first eight games.