Men's Basketball Wins on Late Free Throws, Headed to Championship

Friday, February 24, 2012
 

Women’s basketball

By doing the same thing he did to start the season, Malique Killing made sure the season wouldn’t end.

Dickinson had just taken a 62-61 lead on

Spencer Liddic
Liddic was 10-for-12 on free throws, leading a 25-for-31 performance by the Mules at the line. His 143 made free throws this season are the fourth-most in team history.
Muhlenberg with 28.8 seconds left in a Centennial Conference men’s basketball semifinal game at Franklin & Marshall. But it wouldn’t last long. Killing took the inbounds pass and didn’t hesitate, driving to the hoop and drawing a foul with 20.0 seconds showing on the clock.

“As soon as they hit that shot, I had a flashback to the Moravian game,” said Killing, referring to his game-winning layup with 2.1 seconds left for a 74-73 win in the season opener. “With the refs being fair with the whistle, I wasn’t going to settle for a jump shot. I thought it would be a higher percentage shot to try to drive and draw some contact.”

He did, and he made both free throws to put the Mules ahead 63-62. Two free throws by junior Matt O’Hara and two defensive stops later, Muhlenberg had a 65-62 win and its first berth in the CC championship game since 2001.

The Mules (18-8) will play Franklin & Marshall, a 100-69 winner against Washington, on Saturday as they seek their first title since 1998.

Killing finished with a game-high 17 points, and he, senior Spencer Liddic (16 points, 13 rebounds) and sophomore Austin Curry (15 points) all reached career milestones.

Befitting a playoff game between two teams that tied in the

Matt O'Hara
O'Hara led the Mules with four assists.
standings, the game was tense throughout. The Red Devils (14-12) broke a 14-all tie midway through the first half and remained on top through the rest of the period, taking a 36-30 lead into the locker room. Dickinson then scored the first two baskets of the second half to open up a 10-point lead at 40-30.

That was nothing new for Muhlenberg, which faced second-half deficits on the road in its final two games of the regular season, against Haverford and Ursinus, and won both.

With Liddic scoring seven points down low, the Mules went on a 15-4 run to take a 45-44 lead on Killing’s steal and layup with 13:25 left.

A five-point possession on which Curry hit a three from the wing and Liddic made two free throws after getting fouled while battling for rebounding position gave Muhlenberg its biggest lead, 55-48 with 9:22 left.

But Dickinson came back, scoring five straight points in the final two minutes to grab the lead back and set the stage for Killing’s free throws.

It wasn’t over yet. Dickinson’s leading scorer missed a tough shot in the lane, and O’Hara snagged the rebound with 4.6 seconds left. He was fouled immediately and calmly made both free throws at the other end.

“Of all the guys on our team, Matt is one who’s used to

Malique Killing
Killing did not commit a turnover in 37 minutes on the floor.
being in pressure situations,” said Curry. “I had extreme confidence that he was going to knock down those shots.”

The Red Devils could still tie the game, and after two passes were deflected out of bounds, they inbounded the ball in the frontcourt with 3.6 seconds to play. Dickinson got a good look at a three, but it was not close, and O’Hara rebounded the ball as the buzzer sounded.

Killing’s 17 points gave him 444 for the season, tying the CC freshman record set by two-time player of the year Georgio Milligan of Franklin & Marahall. Curry hit his 100th career three-pointer, a deep shot during the Mules’ early second-half run.

And Liddic’s 13 rebounds pushed him over 1,000 for his career. He is the first player in CC history and the second Mule to reach quadruple figures, and it was appropriate that his 1,000th came on a play in which he dove on the floor to tip a loose ball to a teammate late in the first half.

“That’s pretty much his M.O.,” said Killing. “He’s a guy who’s going to put on his hardhat every night.”

Several other Muhlenberg players went to work to contribute to the hard-fought win. Freshman Gabriel Mercer scored all nine of his points in the first half, helping the Mules stay within striking distance. Freshman AJ Dean, playing for the first time since early January, came off the bench to score a point and block a shot. And sophomore Kevin Hargrove was a defensive presence down low, blocking four shots and pulling down six rebounds despite playing with four fouls down the stretch.

“The thing about our team is that on paper, you see some big names. What people don’t realize is that everyone plays a big role, whether they play 35 minutes or none,” said Killing.

Muhlenberg will need more big efforts from the entire roster against 12th-ranked Franklin & Marshall. The last time the Diplomats hosted they Mules, they won handily, 87-55.

“It should be exciting,” said Curry. “We’re playing for a championship.”
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