Men's basketball knocks off first-place Dickinson
Malique Killing scored 35 points, becoming the first player in program history to record three straight 30-point games
Malique Killing has been doing just about everything right lately. In the midst of an unprecedented hot streak, however, the junior on the Muhlenberg men’s basketball team skipped a crucial part of his pregame regimen before a showdown at first-place Dickinson.
“I made the mistake of not eating before the game,” Killing said. “I was really struggling in warmups. I didn’t even know I was playing for the first five minutes of the game.”
It’s safe to say the Red Devils got their fill of him.
With only a bowl of Ramen noodles to tide him over, Killing scored 29 of his game-high 35 points in the second half to lead the Mules (12-6, 7-4) to a 75-72 victory in a back-and-forth thriller against the defending Centennial Conference champions. When the dust settled, and his team had completed its comeback from a 12-point deficit in a second half that featured 13 lead changes and came down to the final buzzer, Killing had etched his name even deeper in Muhlenberg lore. He became the first player in school history – and just the second in the CC – to notch three consecutive 30-point games. More importantly, it resulted in the Mules’ biggest win of the season.
“This is such a huge win for us,” Killing said. “To come in and beat the number one team in the conference on their floor is big.
“Dickinson is a team that we’ll see when it really matters,” continued Killing, who finished 12-of-19 from the floor (3-of-4 on threes) and a perfect 8-of-8 at the line. “A game like this will prepare us for the big show: the playoffs.”
Killing, who scored 38 points at Ursinus and 33 at Johns Hopkins before his latest explosion, continued to be a one-man show. He scored 12 consecutive points for the Mules in one stretch of the second half, including a three-pointer that put them on top, 53-51, with 9:32 to play. That set off a wild finish in which the teams played hot potato with the lead, trading it a dozen more times.
Killing’s challenged three put the Mules ahead, 69-68, with just under three minutes to play. The Red Devils (14-4, 9-2) knotted it for the final time on a free throw with 1:25 remaining before freshman Brandon LaRose gave Muhlenberg a one-point edge with 53.7 seconds left. After shooting 62.5 percent from the field in the second half, making six of their seven three-pointers, the Mules relied on their defense to make it stand up.
Hargrove has three double-doubles in his last five games. His five blocks were a season high.
Senior Kevin Hargrove, who had 12 points and five blocks, made his 13th rebound count, snagging a carom in traffic and holding on for a jump ball, granting the Mules possession with 33 seconds left. Forced to foul, Dickinson sent Killing to the line, and he calmly knocked down a pair to make it 72-69. The Mules then got another stop, and senior Brandon Bovinosplit a pair at the line to make it a two-possession game.
The Red Devils scored the next three points to pull within one, but Killing drained two more clutch free throws for a three-point lead with 3.1 ticks to go. Dickinson used a timeout to set up a final play, and nearly pulled it off. A baseball pass was caught in midair at the three-point line by a Red Devil, who quickly flicked a pass to a teammate, who found himself with an open look at a game-tying trey. His bid for overtime glanced off the front of the rim, finally allowing the Mules to exhale and celebrate a signature victory in a difficult road environment.
“I probably would have dropped dead if he hit that,” Killing said with a laugh. “I was right next to him thinking please miss. A couple of possessions earlier I was clapping the bones out of my hands, so if it went to overtime I don’t think I would have had anything left.”
Killing got plenty of help from his friends. Hargrove was a force in the middle, notching his 19th career double-double and combining with Bovino to hold Dickinson’s top forward to one field goal. Sophomore Alec Stavetski hit three crucial three-pointers in the second half on the way to a 15-point night. Though two of them came early in the half, Stavetski’s long-range efforts were no less important to the Mules’ cause. Twice after intermission, the Red Devils extended their lead to double digits, and twice Stavetski answered right back with a deep ball, keeping Dickinson within range.
Once again, though, the main attraction was Killing, who continued his best Kevin Durant impression with another masterpiece. Though no one would mistake him with the 6-foot-11 NBA superstar working on a stretch of 11 straight 30-point performances, Killing is displaying a similar efficiency. Pairing an effective midrange game with lethal quickness, Killing is locked in like no Mule before him. And with another first-place team – McDaniel, tied with Dickinson atop the conference standings – next on the docket, his dominant stretch couldn’t be happening at a better time.
“A lot of my scoring this year had been coming in high volume,” Killing said. “I would take 20 shots to get 20 points, because I was forcing it. The coaches told me to expand my game and use the midrange jumper. Just making the game easier for myself has gotten me to this level of success.”