Hot Start, Strong Finish Push Men's Basketball Past Haverford

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Women’s basketball

It’s not how you start, but how you finish that matters. But in its game with Haverford, the Muhlenberg men’s basketball team made sure both parts went more than well enough to win.

Matt O’Hara
Junior Matt O’Hara had a solid all-around game, finishing with five points, three assists, three rebounds, two steals and no turnovers.

The Mules hit 11 of their first 12 shots from the floor to open up an early lead. The Fords fought back in the second half, but Muhlenberg responded by limiting Haverford to just two field goals in the final 8:30 to pull out a 79-69 win.

The victory snaps the Mules’ three-game losing streak and moves them within a half game of fifth place and one game out of fourth in the Centennial Conference race.

“We’ve just been focusing on playing team basketball,” said freshman Gabriel Mercer. “We really needed this win tonight and weren’t going to let it get away from us. We haven’t been closing games out the way we should, so to do that felt great.”

Looking to get everyone involved, the Mules (11-7, 5-6) shared the wealth from the opening tip. All five starters scored and registered an assist in the first five minutes to open up a 14-point lead with 12:01 to play in the first half.

While Muhlenberg could not keep up the 91.7-percent shooing pace, it still finished the half strong to take a 45-37 lead into the locker room.

Hunter Forsman
Junior Hunter Forsman tied his career high with two assists. Five of the seven Mules that took the court dished out at least two helpers.

The Mules ended the half shooting 69.2 percent from the field, including six-of-10 from 3-point range. But their lead was not safe as Haverford (6-12, 4-7) scored 10 of the first 12 points out of the break to pull into a tie at the 15:15 mark.

“You gotta like it when you can hit shots like that,” Mercer, who finished with 11 points, said of the hot start. “But you’re not going to shoot like that the whole game. We let up a little bit in the second half, which we can’t do, but we responded when we needed to.”

The game stayed tight for more than five minutes until Mercer knocked down a 3-pointer from the left wing and then weaved through traffic to convert a fastbreak layup.

Haverford responded with back-to-back buckets, but Mercer sank another three from almost the exact same spot, and senior Spencer Liddic hit consecutive layups to make it a seven-point game with 4:05 left.

The Mules hit nine of their next 14 free throws and held the Fords to just 2-of-9 shooting the rest of the way to close out the win.

Liddic finished with a game-high 27 points to move into 13th place on the CC career scoring list with 1,565 points. He was joined in double figures by Mercer and freshman Malique Killing, who grabbed five steals to go along with his 18 points.

Sophomore Austin Curry added nine points, all on threes.

The Mules have shot 45.8 percent from 3-point range in their last two games, including a 7-of-12 effort from Mercer, who entered the week with 12 in 14 games. But he knows they can cool at any moment, which is why he said the team is focusing on spreading the ball around.

“We need to keep playing as a team, because that’s what helps us get open shots,” said Mercer. “I’ve been feeling good about my shot the past few games, but we’ve got a lot of great players on this team. When we play together, it makes it hard for the defense, which is what we want.

“We really needed this game, so to come out tonight and get the win was big. We’re ready to go on a run, and I think this was a good start.”
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