DORCHESTER, Mass. -— There are going to be nights like Thursday night for a basketball team during a long, grinding season, especially when you go up against a team that is maybe one of the best teams on the national stage.
So all Hugh Coleman wanted to see was an ability to forget, progress and move on to the next opponent after the Bengals 38-point loss to St. Anthony (N.J.). There were ups-and-downs at the Kroc Center in the opening day of the BABC Holiday Classic for the Bengals, but ultimately they did just enough to pull out a 61-58 victory over Cambridge on Friday.
Malik James scored 21 points with nine assists, while Daivon Edwards canned five 3-pointers en route to a team-high 22 points to get the Bengals back to .500 at 3-3. Cambridge fell to 2-2 with the loss.
“They are here,” said Coleman. “They haven’t given up on themselves. I think they put that loss into perspective. That’s a really, really top-notch program that we aspire to be someday.
"Those guys are like a well-oiled machine over there and I think the guys think that we could have hung with them a little bit more had we came out of the gate with a certain kind of mentality and intensity.”
Coleman’s bunch did come out with that intensity with a 9-1 run to start the game and they were able to finish with it on the defensive end with two huge stops in a three point game.
“After the St. Anthony loss we are just trying to get back to the way we were,” said Brighton forward Nick Simpson. “We are trying to get back to how we played New Mission. It’s going to take a little while, but we will get back.”
SIMPSON COMES BACK
Simpson left the game late in the third quarter when he jammed his right-hand. He left the court for a while but returned and said he had to just deal with the pain.
On his first possession back, Simpson drained a straightaway three-pointer for a 52-47 lead with 6:20 left to go in the game, but it was his late-game defense that pulled out the victory for the Bengals.
Marcus Faison got the ball in the middle of the Brighton zone, and tried to back his way towards the basket. Simpson stayed square and slapped the ball away from Faison and Edwards scooped up the loose ball and was fouled. Edwards hit his two free throws for a 61-58 lead.
“I knew the ball was coming inside because they ball and pass it to the big men,” said Simpson. “Once they did his back was to me and I knew he was going to turn to the front, so when he turned to the front I knocked the ball out.”
Cambridge had one more opportunity for the tie and a scrambled possession ended up in the hands of Tsega Tenzin. Tenzin fired for a 3 from the right corner, but Simpson was there to get a piece on it and direct it harmlessly away from the basket as the buzzer rang.
“At the end Brighton did a better job of executing than us,” said Cambridge head coach Lance Dottin. “We should have been able to execute a little bit better to get some better looks at the basket. I thought we were good when we got the ball on the inside to our big guy, but we turned the ball over and never even got a shot at the basket.”
EDWARDS STEPS UP
There haven’t been too many 3-point barrages from Edwards this season, but this came close.
Edwards went 5-of-8 from behind the 3-point line and that success was a welcome sight for Coleman. When Edwards can become a lethal weapon from deep that only makes those driving lanes for James get a little bit wider.
“It was great for him,” said Coleman. “He’s been in a shooting slump and struggling. For him to come out and knock down those shots today was not only big for him but big for us.”