MORRISVILLE, N.Y. – Senior guard Ben Coleman (St. Paris, Ohio) drained a three-pointer as time expired to propel Gallaudet University to a thrilling 60-57 victory over Morrisville State College, the three-time defending North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) champions, on the road Sunday.
"The game was one for the ages. Everybody stuck together and contributed to the comeback," said Gallaudet coach Brendan Stern. "Victory is always possible for those who stay together and fight until the end."
Gallaudet (10-5, 6-3 NEAC) was tied with Morrisville State (5-10, 2-6 NEAC) at 57-57 with two seconds left in regulation. Junior guard Todd Bonheyo (Frederick, Md.), standing by the Mustang bench, threw the ball across midcourt to freshman forward Andy Cruz (Bronx, N.Y.), who quickly flipped the ball to Coleman at the top of the key. Coleman squared up and sunk the three-pointer as the buzzer sounded and the Bison bench erupted in celebration.
"This feeling is beyond anything I have felt before," said Coleman about the game-winner. "This win has brought our team closer together. That shot was for them [the team] and all the supporters of Gallaudet basketball."
Coleman's three-pointer, the biggest shot of his career, almost didn't happen for Gallaudet.
Moments before the game-winning shot the Bison had a chance to inbound the ball with two seconds left on the clock. Bonheyo, standing by the Mustang bench, threw the ball into Cruz at midcourt as time expired. During the play the shot clock went off, which should of been off since GU took a timeout prior to the play, before the game clock hit 0:00. As the referees gathered to reset the game clock to two seconds the Bison took another timeout to allow Coleman to check back into the game. Coach Stern admits they switched the play during that timeout.
"I really had to fight for my shots today but I couldn't lose focus and my confidence. I had to make the read that would have got me the best look and that is when Andy found me at the top," said Coleman. "I wasn't thinking about anything but to follow through and the shot went in."
Coleman's last-second shot was his only points of the ballgame as he went 1-for-4 from the floor as he grabbed five rebounds. Sophomore guard Raymond Nelson (Riverside, Calif.) led the Bison with 14 points and three steals while junior forward Trey Gordon (Talladega, Ala.) scored 11 points and three rebounds. Bonheyo played through pain and finished with four points, four assists and three rebounds in 31 minutes played. Freshman Rashad Gatlin (Chicago, Ill.) scored eight points off the bench.
"Raymond was relentless with his drives and made clutch shots. Rashad played shutdown defense and hit two important shots while. Todd refused to leave the game and made the homerun pass," added Stern. "We've been working on that play all year. In fact, Todd overthrew Andy the last time we ran the play but being the quarterback he is, he made a beautiful touch pass this time around. Ben was on the bench for a while also but he has ice in his veins."
Morrisville was led by Ibrahima Toure's 23 points, nine rebounds and two assists while Joe Hulbert added 12 points in the loss.
"Also want to recognize Morrisville for its well played game. I believe it was their third loss at the buzzer this year. They are a much better than what their record indicates and their head coach is one of the best in the country," said Stern. "They'll be a team to watch going forward."
The Bison and Mustangs battled throughout the game as GU took a 30-26 lead at halftime. In the second half, the host Mustangs regained the lead and held a six-point advantage, 53-47, with two minutes left in the game. Nelson made two baskets, which included a three-point play with his made free throw at the 1:09 mark to knot the game at 55. Gordon made a three-pointer 22 seconds earlier to cut into Morrisville's lead. Toure responded with a layup before Gatlin went to the free throw line where he made both attempts, including his first shot that bounced a few times off the iron before it fell through the net.
Gallaudet's bench contributed 24 points in the win and the Bison scored 18 points off 17 Mustang turnovers. Morrisville held a 40-25 edge in rebounds and 11-2 in seconds chance points. The win snaps a five-game losing streak against the Mustangs. GU last beat Morrisville on Jan. 30, 2011.
GU returns home to host NEAC South Division foe Penn St.-Abington (6-9, 5-3 NEAC) on Wednesday, Jan. 28, at 7 p.m. The Bison defeated the Nittany Lions, 84-73, earlier this month.