Men's Basketball Falls Just Short in Title Game

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Muhlenberg men’s basketball team fell just short of an early Christmas present, dropping a 79-73 decision to host Scranton in a hard-fought PNC Royal Rumble championship game.

Kevin Hargrove The Mules (8-2), bidding for their second tournament title of the season, stayed neck and neck throughout against a Royals team that received votes in last week’s poll and is two years removed from a trip to the NCAA Elite Eight. Muhlenberg pulled to within one on four separate occasions in a hotly-contested second half, but Scranton (7-2) had an answer every time, hitting several critical three-pointers down the stretch and making its free throws to hold off a spirited charge.

Junior Malique Killing netted a team-high 23 points, 11 of them coming in the final three minutes as the Mules tried to get over the hump. Neither team led by more than eight all afternoon. Scranton, which still has two starters and four other players from its deep NCAA Tournament run, had just a little more firepower in the waning minutes against a Mules squad playing for the third time in four days.

Brandon Bovino The Royals’ top player, who leads the Landmark Conference in scoring, buried three-pointers on back-to-back possessions late to keep Muhlenberg at arm’s length. The first gave Scranton a 66-60 lead with 3:34 remaining, and the second answered a layup by Killing and made it 69-62 at the 2:54 mark.

The Mules twice got as close as four in the final 28 seconds, the last at 77-73 after a putback by senior co-captain Austin Curry with 17 ticks left, but each time Scranton hit both free throws at the other end to put the game on ice. The Royals, who came into the tournament ranked 20th in Division III in three-point shooting, went 9-for-19 from beyond the arc, including 6-of-11 (55 percent) in the second half, and their top two players were a combined 18-for-27 (67 percent) from the field and totaled 57 points.

Killing was named to the all-tournament team after averaging 25.5 points per game over the two-day event. It was his second all-tournament nod – Killing was the MVP after the Mules won their Scotty Wood Tournament to open the season.

Senior co-captains Kevin Hargrove (left) and Brandon Bovino (right) turned in strong performances inside for the Mules, who were going for their first six-game winning streak since 2002. Hargrove matched a season high with 19 points on 8-of-16 shooting and pulled down 11 rebounds (eight of them offensive) for his third double-double of the season and the 15th of his career.

Bovino missed his own double-double by a single rebound, pairing a season-high 12 points with nine boards. The duo dominated in the first half, combining for 20 points and eight rebounds on 9-of-11 shooting in a period that featured three ties and nine lead changes and ended with Scranton nursing a 40-38 lead.
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