Men's Basketball Heads into Finals with Big Win

Saturday, December 7, 2013
 

Wrestling, women’s basketball

In its last game before the start of the finals week, the Muhlenberg men’s basketball team earned straight As for effort, poise and entertainment value.

The Mules seized control early on and used several highlight-reel plays to withstand a second-half comeback effort and defeat Johns Hopkins, 91-75, in a matchup of two teams that reached the Centennial Conference semifinals last year.

Alec Stavetski Off to a 6-1 start for only the second time in 25 years, Muhlenberg will get to enjoy its 3-1 CC record and second-place standing for a month until league play resumes on January 8. And the win was extra satisfying for the Mules, who lost to the Blue Jays (4-5, 2-2) twice last year.

Junior Malique Killing, honored before the game for scoring his 1,000th career point earlier in the season, continued to add on to his total, pouring in 32 for his fifth career 30-point game. Sophomore Alec Stavetski scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half, senior James Albano netted a career-high 14, and freshman Jon Schreer came off the bench to score 10.

Muhlenberg held Hopkins without a field goal for a seven-minute stretch of the first half, going on a 15-4 run to open up a 25-14 lead midway through the half. Killing and Schreer took over later in the half, combining to score 14 points in the last 4:18 to send the Mules into the locker room with a 45-29 advantage.

Held to 26-percent shooting in the first half, the Blue Jays came roaring out of the gates in the second, making 10 of their first 14 field-goal attempts to trim the lead to three, 57-54 with 11 minutes still to play.

“We knew they were going to throw some punches,” said Stavetski. “ “They have two all-conference players who were sitting on the bench a lot of the first half with foul trouble. We just wanted to take their punches and throw some back.”

Stavetski (left) landed the first big counterpunch with a four-point play on a three-pointer and foul shot to push the lead back up to seven. It was back down to five when sophomore Nick Melosky threw a lob pass from the baseline that Stavetski caught and converted into an alley-oop layup.

Hopkins never got closer than six points the rest of the way. An 11-3 run capped by Albano’s three-pointer gave Muhlenberg a 14-point lead with just over five minutes to play. Included in the run was a showstopping play in which Killing came down on the break and delivered a behind-the-back pass to Schreer, who fed cutting freshman John Hunter (7 points, 6 rebounds) for a layup.

“Showtime” continued in the latter stages of the game. Killing, who added six rebounds and six assists to his 32 points, found Schreer for a layup with another behind-the-back bounce pass, and Albano turned Schreer’s fancy pass into a three-point play when he was fouled making the layup.

“Sometimes that stuff just happens because it’s the best play,” said Stavetski. “If a guy is guarding you on your right side and you want to pass it to someone on your left, the only way to get it there is behind the back. But it is fun, and it gets the crowd into it.”

Winning also is fun, especially when it comes against a team that traditionally gives you trouble. The victory was only the fourth at home against Johns Hopkins in the 21-year history of the CC, and coming on the heels of last year’s losses, it gave the Mules a good feeling heading into finals.

“I had never beaten Hopkins before, so I know this game was circled on my personal calendar,” said Stavetski. “We knew this was going to be a test. It’s a huge confidence booster for us.”
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