COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. – The Franklin & Marshall men's basketball team opened up Centennial Conference play on the road Tuesday night in a tough battle at Ursinus. The lead changed hands eight times, which was one too many for the Diplomats' liking in a 88-87 loss during the final seconds.
The seventh lead change was only lucky for a few seconds as Omar Nichols converted an and-one layup with nine seconds to play in regulation. That key basket turned an 86-84 deficit into an 87-86 advantage for F&M. However, the jubilation lasted just a few seconds as the Bears' Trevor Wall hit a layup of his own at the other end, giving the hosts an 88-87 lead and eventual victory with 1.4 seconds to play. That score stood as the final with the Bears knocking down the ensuing inbounds play to deny the Diplomats a shot at tripling up on the late dramatics.
Nichols' final three points gave him 14 on the evening as he was one of four F&M players to finish in double figures. John Seidman led the visitors with 23 points. Josh Parra just missed a double-double with 17 points and nine rebounds, while Jaylen Green knocked down four key triples off the bench to finish with 14 points.
The early minutes of the game certainly provided little foreshadowing of the drama that was too come as the Bears led by as many as 17 points during the opening half. Nonetheless, the Diplomats chipped away at the lead and cut Ursinus' advantage to just six points after 20 minutes of play. That left plenty of time for F&M's high-powered quad of scorers to take over in the second half as those leading scorers provided all but two of F&M points during the final 20 minutes.
F&M took its first lead of the second half when Green knocked down one of his three-pointers, giving his side a 53-52 edge with just over five minutes gone by in the second half. Despite staying within striking distance, the Bears held the lead until a Seidman's layup with just over four minutes to play set the stage for the a back-and-forth battle down the stretch.
Parra's layup gave his side an 84-82 led with 2:30 play, but it was Wall who quickly answered again for the Bears. He would prove to be a tough matchup all night for the Diplomats, finishing the conference contest with a game-high 31 points. Unfortunately, that quick counter theme played out again in the final seconds as F&M's next basket came from Nichols before the Bears secured the game-winner.
F&M finished the game with a 24-7 advantage on second chance points, but that was offset by the Bears going to the line 13 more times than F&M, but more importantly scoring 15 more points at the charity stripe. The F&M second chance opportunities were created by the Diplomats holding a 49-29 advantage in rebounding, highlighted by a 22-5 edge in offensive boards.
The Diplomats will now enjoy a few days over the Thanksgiving holiday before returning to Centennial Conference action at home against Dickinson next Tuesday, November 29. That game with the Red Devils is set for an 8 p.m. start and will be part of a doubleheader with the women's game that tips at 6 p.m.