Men's Basketball Forges into Tourney Final; Killing Breaks Records

Saturday, November 26, 2011
 

Spencer Liddic
Senior Spencer Liddic recorded his fifth straight double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds, moving into the top 10 on the CC's all-time rebounding list.
Malique Killing’s appeal as a basketball player is in his quick, athletic movement. But it was by standing still that he made history.

Killing went 20-for-20 from the foul line, breaking two school records and two Centennial Conference records, as the Muhlenberg men’s basketball team defeated Valley Forge Christian, 68-60, in the first round of the Gallaudet Holiday Tournament.

The Mules (4-1) advance to the championship game against Medgar Evers, a 63-43 winner against Gallaudet.

Killing’s 20 free throws made broke the school record of 18 set by Mel Kessler 53 years ago. The previous best perfect performance at the line was a 17-for-17 effort by Gary Spengler in 1963-64. Dennis Stanton of Ursinus held the CC records for free throws made and highest percentage in a game when he went 19-for-19 against Franklin & Marshall in 2003-04.

“The weird thing is that at practice the day

Gabriel Mercer
Mercer finished with a career-high 13 points, all in the last six minutes.
before this game, we did a drill where we had to make three free throws in a row, and I was second-to-last,” said Killing, who finished with 27 points. “I guess I got all my misses out last night.”

Killing was 8-for-8 in the first half, helping keep the Mules in the game despite 7-for-22 shooting from the field. Muhlenberg trailed 28-26 at the half to the defending National Christian College Athletic Association Division II runner-up.

“That’s the best team we’ve played so far,” said freshman Gabriel Mercer. “They’re really athletic and they pressure the ball well. In the first half I felt the energy was there, but we didn’t play very smart. In the second half we still had the energy and we played smarter.”

After the eighth tie of the game, Muhlenberg took the lead for good at 42-40 midway through the second half when junior Matt O’Hara stole the ball and passed ahead to freshman AJ Dean for a layup.

Two free throws by Killing and a tipin by

Matt O'Hara
O'Hara made his first start of the season and contributed four rebounds, two assists and a steal.
sophomore Kevin Hargrove made it 46-41, but the Patriots (5-2) scored the next four points to close the gap to one. That’s when Mercer started to light it up, hitting threes from the corner on back-to-back possessions to extend the lead to seven with 5:30 left.

It was a long time coming for Mercer, who up to that point was scoreless and had committed five turnovers.

“I really have to give Coach that credit. He’s always talking to me about staying with it and not giving in to frustration,” Mercer said. “I always feel like I have those moments in me, and he rewarded me by allowing me to have that moment.”

There were more moments to come for Mercer. With about three minutes left and the Mules trying to preserve a 56-50 lead, Killing dribbled to the top of the key and jumped as if to shoot with the 35-second clock winding down. But he hung in the air and instead passed to Mercer, who drilled yet another three from the corner to give Muhlenberg its biggest lead, at nine.

The Mules hung on from there to complete a satisfying bounceback win after suffering their first loss of the season at Gettysburg on Tuesday.

“We talked as a team, aired out some issues and made adjustments,” said Mercer. “The important thing is to stay together.”
Click here for box score.
Click here for complete stats.
Click here for a photo gallery from the game.