Men's Basketball 2011-12 Season Review

 

Despite missing the playoffs the previous year, the Muhlenberg men’s basketball team was picked to finish second in the 2011-12 Centennial Conference preseason poll.

As it turned out, the poll had it exactly right: The Mules were second in the regular season and made it to the CC championship game before falling to nationally ranked Franklin & Marshall. But the way they got there could not have been predicted, except to attribute it to the youth on the court.

Spencer Liddic
Liddic finished his career second on Muhlenberg’s all-time charts in points (1,707), rebounds and free throws (485). The Lehigh Valley Small College player of the year tied a CC record with 21 rebounds in a game at Swarthmore.
In a season of extreme ups and downs, Muhlenberg finished 18-9 for its highest win total in 10 years and advanced to its first CC final in 11 seasons.

Leading the team throughout were one of the top players in program history and one of the top newcomers in program history: Senior big man Spencer Liddic graduated as the all-time CC leader in rebounds (1,015) and double-doubles (46), and rookie guard Malique Killing broke the CC record for points by a freshman (449).

Killing set the keynote for the season by hitting an off-balance layup with 2.1 seconds remaining for a 74-73 win at Moravian in the first game of his career. The Mules rolled through the Scotty Wood Tournament, scoring 199 points in the two games, but stumbled in their CC opener, falling 72-68 at Gettysburg.

The team rebounded to win the Gallaudet Holiday Tournament but struggled to find consistency. An overtime loss to Washington – the first at home for the Mules in more than 20 years – was followed by a 19-point win against defending CC runner-up Dickinson.

Malique Killing
Killing, the D3hoops.com Middle Atlantic Region rookie of the year, scored 30 points in the Scotty Wood Tournament championship game and was named MVP of the Gallaudet Holiday Tournament.
After suffering a 79-73 non-league home loss to DeSales in late January, Muhlenberg was 10-7 overall (losers of five of its last six) and only 4-6 (tied for seventh place) in the CC. But the team caught fire down the stretch, winning seven of its last eight regular-season contests, including a 60-58 upset of eighth-ranked F&M, to earn the second seed in the playoffs.

Killing’s two free throws with 20.0 seconds left provided the go-ahead points in a thrilling, back-and-forth semifinal game against Dickinson, a 65-62 win in which Liddic went over the 1,000-rebound mark. The Mules ran out of magic the next night, however, falling to F&M, 71-55, in the title game.

Liddic, the team’s lone senior, led Muhlenberg in points (18.0) and rebounds (11.2) per game. In addition to earning first-team All-CC honors for the third year in a row, he also was a second-team Academic All-American and a finalist for the Jostens Trophy, given to the top player in Division III.

Killing averaged 16.6 points per game, led the Mules in free-throw percentage (.804) and steals (50) and was second in scoring, assists (56) and three-pointers (34). He broke four records by going 20-for-20 from the free-throw line against Valley Forge Christian.

Killing was one-third of an outstanding freshman class that also included forward A.J. Dean and guard Gabriel Mercer. Dean was sidelined by illness midway through the season but still averaged 9.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Mercer averaged 7.6 points and shot a team-best 39.2 percent from three-point range in a reserve role.

Sophomore Austin Curry was third on the team in scoring at 11.4 points per game. With a team-leading 58 three-pointers, he set the school record for most threes in a player’s first two seasons (106).

Another sophomore, Kevin Hargrove, led the team in blocked shots (42) for the second year in a row while averaging 6.6 points and 6.2 rebounds.

Junior Matt O’Hara recorded a team-leading 75 assists and led the CC with a 2.27 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Junior Hunter Forsman gave Muhlenberg a physical presence inside, starting 14 games and averaging 3.8 rebounds in his first injury-free season.