Men's Basketball Comes Back to Earn Playoff Berth

Saturday, February 9, 2013
 

Women’s basketball

Kevin Hargrove
Hargrove has 72 blocked shots this season and 184 for his career, good for fifth on the CC all-time chart.
Scripts that follow the same pattern and result in the same ending may not make for great movies, but they sure make for great basketball games.

For the second time in three weeks, the Muhlenberg men’s basketball team overcame a 16-point deficit and survived an end-of-game trip to the foul line by its opponent to pull out a crucial Centennial Conference road win in front of a hostile crowd. This one was an 83-82 victory at McDaniel, and it clinched the Mules a CC playoff berth on a day when three other teams in the top half of the standings – Franklin & Marshall, Johns Hopkins and Gettysburg – lost to teams in the bottom half.

With one week to play in the regular season, Muhlenberg (14-9, 10-6) is in fourth place, a game behind Hopkins and two in front of fifth-place Gettysburg. The Mules need to win one of their two remaining games, both at home, to clinch no worse than a home playoff game.

“It was definitely a priority to win this game and take the pressure off,” said sophomore Malique Killing, who scored 22 of his 28 points in the second half and was involved in several big moments down the stretch. “Now we can focus on preparing for the playoffs in these last two games. Obviously the most important thing is to get it; now we just want to get the best seed possible.”

Alec Stavetski
Freshman Alec Stavetski made a pair of three-pointers, the second with 7:55 left to cut the McDaniel lead to seven.
The game against the Green Terror (12-11, 6-10) resembled a 75-73 win at Ursinus in late January, in which Muhlenberg trailed by 16 in the first half.

Matt [O’Hara] brought that to our attention in a timeout. The first word he said was Ursinus,” said Killing. “We came out of that timeout with the confidence that we could come back to win.”

McDaniel, needing a win to keep its playoff hopes alive, led by 16 (69-53) with less than 12 minutes to play. A three-pointer from the corner by junior James Albano got the comeback started, and a three-point play by Killing with 9:22 left brought the deficit to single digits at 71-63. The Green Terror responded with a putback to go back up by 10, but did not make another field goal for more than four minutes, by which time the Mules had drawn to within one at 74-73.

Malique Killing
Killing is only the third player in CC history to score at least 900 points in his first two seasons. He has 905.
McDaniel scored the next four points to go up by five, but two baskets in 18 seconds – a pullup baseline jumper by junior Austin Curry and a fullcourt layup by Killing after a steal – made it a one-point game again, 78-77 with 2:39 left.

After the Green Terror missed a pair of free throws, Killing drew contact off a pump fake and converted two free throws with 1:43 left to give Muhlenberg a 79-78 lead, its first since 19-16.

Four more free throws, two by Killing and two by O’Hara, upped the lead to 83-78 with 1:04 left. A Green Terror three-pointer and a Mule miss set the stage for the dramatic closing seconds.

With 5.1 seconds left, a McDaniel player dribbled the ball off his foot, and in the scramble for the loose ball was fouled. He missed the first one, but rather than miss the second intentionally, he made it, making the score 83-82. The Green Terror fouled Killing on the inbounds pass, but the 84-percent free-throw shooter uncharacteristically missed both with 4.3 seconds left.

“I like to say that I was trying to keep it interesting,” joked Killing.

McDaniel snagged the rebound, dribbled the length of the court and got off a desperation three at the buzzer, but it hit off the backboard and bounced away to give Muhlenberg the win.

The Green Terror shot 75 percent (9-for-12) on three-pointers in a first half that also featured a spectacular performance by Mule junior Kevin Hargrove, who scored 21 points on perfect 8-of-8 shooting from the field. Just like the McDaniel shooters, Hargrove cooled his pace in the second half but finished with a career-high 29. He also blocked three shots to break his own school record of 70 blocks in a season.

Albano gave Muhlenberg a big lift off the bench, scoring seven points on 3-of-3 shooting in only 12 minutes. The Mules shot 55.6 percent from the field for the game, and they needed every bit of it to turn what looked like a loss for most of the second half into a win at the end.

“Put aside the fact that we clinched a playoff berth, and the one thing we came out of this game that we can hold our heads high about was that, in the time of adversity, we didn’t turn on each other,” said Killing. “Finding that togetherness as a team will take us further down the road.”
Click here for box score.
Click here for complete stats.