Mount Mayhem Returns to Knott Arena

 

Photo of Game
Photo courtesy Andrew McDonald

After an 0-6 start on the road, the Mount St. Mary’s men’s basketball team earned three, decisive victories in front of their home crowd.

This past Tuesday, the Mount St. Mary’s men’s basketball team returned to Knott Arena to face the American University Eagles. Both teams traded buckets early before the Mount’s mayhem style press began to affect the American backcourt.

At the 15:40 mark, American guard Delante Jones was called for a travel, which resulted in a three pointer by junior guard Will Miller of the Mount at the opposite end of the floor. Another American turnover resulted in an easy layup for Mount freshman guard Elijah Long. Coach Christian praised Long’s play afterwards, “He is really a team first guy and getting him that first start would be really important for us. He is really efficient scorer at the rim, but he is also an outstanding passer. Our plan is to have him primed and ready to go for Northeast Conference play”.

After another American turnover, sophomore guard Charles Glover scored on a tough drive to rim to give the Mount a 15-8 lead at the 13:42 mark of the first half. The Mountaineers never looked back and lead the rest of the way.

To start the second half, the Mount pulled away from the Eagles through a 16-1 run. Freshman forward Chris Wray slammed home an emphatic dunk at the 19:20 mark to put the Mount up 40-29. Following the game, Coach Christian noted “Chris Wray gives us outstanding energy and does an excellent job of catching the ball from our great guards”. Wray finished with nine points and four rebounds on the night.

Senior center Taylor Danaher also had a big night in the paint with 19 points alongside three and one opportunities. More importantly, he did not miss a shot from the field and “Taylor is and plays like a pro”, said sophomore guard Junior Robinson.

American struggled to convert from the field in the second half, as the Eagles shot just 36%, while the Mount used a significant advantage at the foul line to extend their lead late in the second half. When it was all said and done, the Mount picked up its first win by a final of 81-56.

Following their impressive win against American University, the Mountaineers faced their arch rivals, Loyola, in another installment of the Catholic Clash on Saturday. Like the American game, both teams struggled to find their rhythm early.

After junior guard BK Ashe sank two free throws to give the Mount its first lead, Chris Wray scored on a putback at the rim to extend the lead to four.  Then, it started raining threes at Knott Arena. Junior Robinson and Ashe knocked in back to back jumpers to give the Mount a nine point lead with 8:54 to play in the half. Coach Christian noted “the team played an excellent first half, but from a coaching standpoint, we did see some things in the second half that we need to continue to work on”.

Ashe knocked in two more threes down the stretch in the first half to help give the Mount a 14 point lead at the break.

Loyola did have 13 attempts from the foul line in the second half, which allowed them to close the gap as the Mount struggled to convert from the field. The Mountaineers converted just eight shots after the break, but they did manage to sink nine free throws to stave off a late rally by the Bulldogs.

As the game closed in on its conclusion, the Mount’s bigs really stepped up and nailed some key shots. Both Senior forward Greg Graves and Taylor Danaher each hit three point jumpers from the top of the key, which helped solidify a 85-68 victory.

Last night, the Mountaineers finished their three game homestand with a convincing, come from behind win against the Bucknell Bison. Junior Robinson led the way for the Mount with 19 points and nine assists in 33 minutes of play.

Coach Christian commented that “the team grew up more than probably any other game during my time here”. He went on to say, “our biggest games are not going to come from a physical attribute. They are going to come from us having the right mindset. These guys can make plays and make shots…At the half, we are trying to teach them how to reset and how to look at the game a different way”.

This game proved to be an uphill battle from the word go as Bucknell jumped out to a 21-8 lead prior to the 12 minute mark. Immediately following a timeout with 12:10 to play in the first half, something clicked.

BK Ashe drilled a mid-range jumper to get the ball rolling with 11:53 to go. Chris Wray made a fantastic defensive play at the rim, which to Bucknell’s first turnover of the game. With 9:19 to go, the momentum definitively swung in the Mount’s favor as Greg Graves nearly tore the roof off the building with a huge dunk.

Graves followed through with another huge bucket from beyond the arc to cut into Bucknell’s lead. The Bison did respond with a 14-5 run to establish their advantage heading into the locker room. The Mount faced one of their largest deficits of the season (14 points) at the intermission.

As a Mount student and an avid fan, I had some concerns as the second half began. But, I thought back to that wild game against St. Francis in the NEC Tournament two years ago when the Mount fought back late in the second half to advance. A comeback was not out of the question.

Two minutes into the half, Greg Graves gave the crowd a huge jolt and Knott Arena suddenly came alive once again. After a “thunderous” dunk at one end of the floor, Graves raced back to the opposite end of the court to swat away a shot attempt.

Shortly thereafter, Will Miller and BK Ashe provided two three point jumpers to keep this insane rally going. At the 7:54 mark of the second half, Bucknell called a timeout after Taylor Danaher notched back to back buckets on two possessions.

With 6:15 to play, Miller drained a corner three to give the Mount its first lead of the game. As the game came down to the wire, both teams continued to battle for supremacy until Chris Wray came through yet again.

After a gentle putback at the rim, Wray leaped towards the basket and dunked home a beautifully weighted pass from Robinson to put the Mount ahead for good. Robinson commented afterwards that “this team simply does what it takes to win”.

In a collective team effort that featured 42 points from the Mount’s bench, including 10 from Charles Glover, nine from Miller, and nine from Danaher, the Mount battled back to defeat one of the best teams in the Patriot League. Although they led for just under five minutes of play, the Mountaineers emerged victorious by a final scoreline of 81-73.

The Mountaineers are back in action at Knott Arena on Jan. 2 as they begin conference play against the Blackbirds of LIU Brooklyn. Tip-off for this NEC matchup is set for 2:00 PM.

Andrew Wyatt

Sports Editor of The Mountain Echo

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