men’s basketball posts playoff win
Four days later the Mules left Ursinus one step closer to a championship.
Muhlenberg made a big first-half run stand, never trailing and leading by double digits the entire second half in an 84-69 win that sends it to the semifinals of the Centennial Conference Tournament.
“We kept our heads up through all the losing,” said senior Brian Frankoski. “We knew we were good enough to beat any team in the league, and after Saturday we knew we were going to come back here and get a win.”
The Mules (13-13) will try to repeat the same feat they accomplished – knocking off a team on its home court after losing twice to it in the regular season – on Saturday at host Franklin & Marshall. The Diplomats won by 22 at Memorial Hall in the first meeting and hung on after a late game-tying Muhlenberg run in the second for a six-point victory.
“We’ve already battled at their place once,” noted Frankoski (right). “We just have to keep working hard and earn it. We know it’s going to be tough.”
The first-round game was tough in the early going. Freshman Rob Berish took a handoff and drove to the hoop for a layup to give the Mules a 17-10 lead, but Ursinus (15-11) fought back to cut it to 17-16.
Then Muhlenberg went off, hitting three consecutive three-pointers from sophomore Justin Greenstone, junior Evan Tozer and senior Ryan Foster, respectively. Greenstone then came up with a steal and threw a long outlet to senior Obi Nwizugbo, who drained a pull-up jumper to cap an 11-2 run and make the score 28-18.
Ursinus ended the run with a three, only to have Tozer respond with yet another triple. Tozer then opened the second half with a triple that hit front rim, bounced off glass and fell in. In all he shot 5-for-7 from beyond the arc and 6-for-8 from the field.
“Our perimeter guys were moving and spotting up and were confident,” said Frankoski. “Every time Tozer got the ball there was no hesitation.
“And Foster actually made a three-pointer,” he joked, making light of the sharpshooter’s recent struggles, which came to an end in a game in which he shot 5-for-10 and netted 16 points.
The Bears were within 12 when Foster (left) drained a jumper and hit a putback, and then sophomore Spencer Liddic found Frankoski wide open for an easy layup to make it 56-38 with 13:06 to play. Ursinus got no closer than 11 the rest of the way, with the Mules’ defensive effort aided in part by two huge blocks by Liddic and Berish.
“We tend to get off to get good starts and fall off a little,” said Frankoski. “We kept saying we need to keep our foot on the gas pedal and keep attacking. It was nice to get a big lead and never relinquish it.”
Tozer finished with 17 points, and Foster added four assists to go with his 16 points. Frankoski (14 points), Greenstone (13 points, four assists) and Liddic (10 points, 11 rebounds, five assists) also scored in double figures.
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