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Muhlenberg College

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

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Basketball scholar-athletes

men’s basketball earns tip of cap

As Muhlenberg men’s basketball sophomore Matt O’Hara stepped to the foul line for a one-and-one with less than a minute remaining at Johns Hopkins, a Blue Jay heckler shouted “choke, choke, choke,” from across the gym.

But O’Hara had other thoughts about what he was going to do from the line and he calmly sank both free throws. He also gained some respect from the heckler, who responded to the made free throws by shouting, “I tip my hat to you sir.”

Thirty seconds later, it was the entire Johns Hopkins team that was
Justin Greenstone
Junior Justin Greenstone had 3 assists and 2 steals.
tipping its cap to Muhlenberg as the Mules picked up a 68-62 win.

While O’Hara may have been the center of the fans’ attention, Mule junior Spencer Liddic was the focus of the Blue Jay defense. Even though he faced repeated double-teams, the powerful forward finished with a game-high 27 points.

And he saved his best play for the most crucial point of the game.

After Johns Hopkins (3-10, 1-5) took the lead with just under 12 minutes to play in regulation, Liddic took over. He scored eight straight points, four from the foul line and a pair of spinning, diving layups, to put the Mules back on top.

Then James Albano drained a 3-pointer from the top of the arc to cap an 11-0 run and put the Mules ahead 61-52 with 7:52 to play.

“Runs are always important,” Liddic said. “The game
Spencer Liddic
Liddic has scored at least 20 points in eight of the Mules' 13 games.
of basketball is all about how you respond to runs, and we responded well today.

“The guards did a great job getting the ball inside and I was able to take advantage of some good passes.”

The Blue Jays did hit a pair of 3-pointers to keep the game close down the stretch, but each time the Mules responded.

First, O’Hara pulled down a key defensive rebound and delivered a precise half-court pass to Liddic, who was waiting under the basket, for an easy layup. It was one of a team-high 4 assists for O’Hara, who also finished with 4 rebounds.

Then O’Hara struck again when went up against a trio of Blue Jays and pulled down another key rebound with less than minute to play. He was immediately fouled, and the heckler started his chant that fell on deaf ears.

The strong second half helped the Mules (7-6, 3-3) overcome a slow start. Because of a forecasted snowstorm, tipoff time was moved ahead two hours from 7 to 5 p.m. So when the Mules arrived in Baltimore at 4:10, they were rushed to get ready.

Johns Hopkins took advantage and led by as many as nine points in the first half. But thanks to a pair of 3-pointers from senior Evan Tozer, five first-half points from freshman Austin Curry and Liddic’s 10-spot, the Mules were able to battle back and go into halftime with a 35-32 advantage.

“We came in and saw 50 minutes on the clock and everybody started running downstairs to get changed,” Liddic said. “We probably didn’t get enough shots off and weren’t loose enough, so it took us a couple minutes into the game to get going. Then once we settled down we started to play well”

Sophomore Rob Berish finished with 9 points while freshman Kevin Hargrove added 8. Albano had 8 points and 7 rebounds to help fuel the Mules' fifth straight win over Johns Hopkins.

The win pushes the Mules back above .500. And more importantly, Liddic said, knowing they can win under adverse circumstances, including a blizzard, gives the Mules a shot of confidence with first-place Franklin & Marshall set to visit Memorial Hall on Thursday.

“It takes some of the pressure off of us because we’re doing what we need to do to win again,” said Liddic, who is 14 points away from 1,000. “Now we can come out loose to give Franklin & Marshall our best shot and hopefully get a win.”
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