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Saturday, March 5, 2011

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Men’s lacrosse, track & field, baseball

epic comeback puts women’s basketball
in ncaa “sweet 16”

The first half of the Muhlenberg women’s basketball team’s NCAA Tournament game against Rochester could not have gone much worse.

The second half? That will go down as one of the most impressive performances in Mule history as they outscored the
Kelly McKeon
McKeon, who now has four straight postseason double-doubles, did not turn the ball over in 35 minutes. As a team, the Mules committed only six turnovers, just two of them in the second half.
host Yellowjackets, 48-26, during the final 20 minutes to turn a 17-point halftime deficit into an incredible 74-69 win.

With the epic comeback, Muhlenberg advances to the “Sweet 16” to face Amherst on Friday at a site and time to be determined on Sunday.

“Coach told me he wanted to cut it to 10 with 10 minutes left, and I thought that was too close for comfort,” senior Kelly McKeon said. “So we just came out of the half and scored some easy baskets to cut into that lead. Then [Alexandra] Chili hit some big shots, and the momentum totally changed from there.”

McKeon took the initiative out of the locker room and served as the spark that ignited the Mules.

She hit a 3-pointer from the left wing to open the half and then used an array of jumpers and driving layups to score eight of Muhlenberg’s next 10 points to cut the deficit to single digits, 48-39, less than four minutes into the frame.

Then Chili, the hero from Friday night’s dramatic win, connected on a pair of deep 3-pointers, sandwiched around back-to-back layups from senior Sheila Cook, to pull the Mules to within two at the 13:00 mark.

After allowing Rochester (ranked 13th in the poll) to shoot 50.0 percent
What a week! In a span of seven days, the Mules won three games away from home against teams that have been nationally ranked this year. They came back from halftime deficits in both of the games on their opponent’s home court, and in the neutral-site game they won on a last-second three-pointer.
in the first half, the Mule defense tightened and only surrendered nine field goals after halftime. Muhlenberg also forced 10 Yellowjacket turnovers in the second half.

With the Muhlenberg faithful growing progressively louder with each possession, the Yellowjackets managed to stay in front until McKeon struck again.

She stepped beyond the arc and calmly drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing that silenced the home fans and gave Muhlenberg its first lead of the game, 58-57, with 5:28 to play.

From there, the Mules refused to relinquish control.

Chili and freshman Erin Laney each hit a pair of big buckets to stretch the lead to seven with 2:35 remaining.

Rochester started to foul to extend the game and was able to get to within three thanks to a pair of desperation 3-pointers, but Chili knocked down four consecutive free throws in the final 15 seconds to ice the game.

“I think that was just the momentum carrying over from last night,” Chili said of her team’s comeback. “We’re
Alexandra Chili
Chili is 10 points away from 1,500 for her career and 15 away from second place on the Mules’ all-time list.
really confident in our team, and I think this shows we can play with anyone.

“We were just trying to keep people confident at halftime and didn’t want to give up. They had a big lead, but we just wanted to make sure everybody was still in it mentally. And in the second half we showed the type of team we truly are.”

When the clock finally showed 0.0, the Mules stormed the court as they celebrated a second-round win in an almost silent gym for the second time in three years.

Muhlenberg handed Rochester only its second loss at home in 13 NCAA Tournament games. The 2009 Mules reached the “Sweet 16” by giving Bowdoin its first home postseason loss.

McKeon scored 18 of her game-high 26 points in the second half, and added 11 rebounds, three assists and three steals. Chili, meanwhile, poured in 16 points after halftime to finish with 24 and move into third place on Muhlenberg’s career scoring list.

Cook added 12 points and seven rebounds, while Laney split her career-high eight points evenly between each half.

Coupled with Chili’s last-second, game-winner in the first round against Williams, the Mules are starting to grow accustomed to late-game heroics. But even so, McKeon said even in her wildest imagination she could never have predicted a 22-point swing.

“This whole weekend has been unbelievable; it’s crazy.” McKeon said. “You can’t even begin to dream about stuff like this, this is amazing.

“This is so incredible right now; I’m still almost speechless. These were two unbelievable wins. I have so much confidence in our team, and I think we can play with anyone. There’s not going to be any spring break for us, so we might as well keep on winning.”
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