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Muhlenberg College

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

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men’s basketball bounces back

After suffering a disappointing loss at previously winless King’s on
Peter Barnes
Barnes blocked three shots and now has an even 100 for his career.
Monday, the Muhlenberg men’s basketball team didn’t have to wait long to redeem itself. And the Mules made the most of their second chance, opening up Centennial Conference play with a 66-53 win at winless Swarthmore.

Muhlenberg overcame a five-point halftime deficit by shooting 60 percent from the field and holding the Garnet to 21 points in the second half. Senior Peter Barnes (11 points, 11 rebounds) and sophomore Spencer Liddic (10 points, 10 rebounds) both recorded double-doubles.

“It was a short recovery time,” said senior Obi Nwizugbo. “The only way to get past [the loss] is to focus on the game you’re playing and not think about the past. It’s about wanting to win more.”

It may have been a short recovery time, but the one day in between games was enough for the coaching staff to make two changes to the starting lineup. Nwizugbo and fellow senior Brian Frankoski, who had started the first four games, were replaced in the starting five but proved they were still important team members, coming off the bench to combine for 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting. Frankoski led all scorers with 13.

“Sometimes for a player, starting or not starting is all in your head. It’s all about chemistry and rhythm in basketball,” said Nwizugbo. “I’ve matured enough to know that not starting doesn’t affect playing time. Coach let us know that we would play the same minutes, and maybe more if we continue to work hard.”

Both of the new reserves played key roles in the
Matt O’Hara
O’Hara scored nine points in his first career start.
second-half turnaround, which came on the heels of a slow-paced first half. On offense, Swarthmore (0-5) dribbled the ball around halfcourt before starting the offense with about 15 seconds on the shot clock on most possessions. On defense, the Garnet came out in a box-and-one that forced the Mules (2-3) into 15 first-half turnovers.

Muhlenberg trailed 32-27 at halftime despite shooting 45 percent from the field and outrebounding Swarthmore 19-6.

“We were very hesitant in the first half; their offense kept us on our heels. We wanted to be more aggressive,” remarked Nwizugbo. “We were a little looser in the second half. We knew the only thing that was keeping us from winning was ourselves, so we just had to mentally push through it.”

The Mules opened the second half on a 6-0 run to take the lead. Barnes started the scoring with
Obi Nwizugbo
Nwizugbo netted seven of his 11 points in the second half.
a three-point play, then made a beautiful pass to wide-open freshman Matt O’Hara under the basket for a layup. A free throw by Liddic gave Muhlenberg a 33-32 edge.

After a Swarthmore free throw tied the score, Liddic passed the ball across the baseline to senior Ryan Foster for a layup that put the Mules ahead to stay. Nwizugbo followed by hitting a 15-footer and a three-pointer on back-to-back possessions, then slipped through a double team to hit a cutting Frankoski for a layup.

Frankoski’s layup after a steal and a layup by Nwizugbo off a fullcourt pass from Barnes extended the lead to 46-37 midway through the second half.

A three-pointer by junior Evan Tozer at the six-minute mark gave Muhlenberg its first double-digit lead and completed a 26-9 blitz to open the second half.

The Mules committed only six turnovers in the second half and continued their dominance on the boards, finishing with a 38-18 advantage. Regardless of their previous results, they are 1-0 in the standings that matter the most.

“It’s all about conference play now,” said Nwizugbo.
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