This past Thursday, the Mount men’s basketball team squared off against the Pioneers of Sacred Heart University. In a pivotal NEC matchup, the Mount got off to a slow start following a couple of early turnovers. The Pioneers jumped out to a 7-0 lead, prompting Mount head coach Jamion Christian to call a timeout.
With 17:35 to play in the first half, junior guard BK Ashe drilled a three pointer from the top of the key to help kick-start the Mount’s offense. Ashe nailed another three at the 16:10 mark to further cut into Sacred Heart’s lead. The Pioneers responded with a 15-6 run that drained nearly eight minutes off the game clock. With 7 minutes to play in the first half, sophomore point guard Junior Robinson finally got his mojo working. Robinson converted on a tough dribble drive, got fouled, and brought the crowd to its feet.
2 minutes later, Robinson knocked in his first three point jumper of the game to cut Sacred Heart’s lead to 23-21. Robinson and sophomore forward Chris Wray combined to score the final eight points of the half as the Mount continued to chip away at a stingy Pioneers defense.
As the second half began, both teams struggled to gain the upper hand on the offensive end. Senior forward Greg Graves and Sacred Heart guard Cane Broome each traded buckets on back to back possessions prior to the 14:00 minute mark. Following a timeout with 14:01 to play, Wray leaped in the air towards a missed shot and gracefully tapped it in off the backboard. The Mount had its first lead of the game and Knott Arena came to life.
With 12:15 to play, Robinson sized up his defender and notched his second three pointer of the game as the shot clock expired. Sacred Heart responded with a three of their own to pull within a point as the scoreboard read 45-44.
As crunch-time approached midway through the second half, the Mount needed a spark to counter a barrage mid-range jumpers from the Pioneers. Once again, Robinson answered the call with two, three point plays in the span of a minute to fire up his teammates.
As clock ticked under a minute to play, the Mount trailed 61-59 despite Robinson’s best performance of the season. But the sophomore guard was prepared to make one more play. With 53 seconds to go, Robinson drove into lane and scored on a scoop shot as he was fouled. He converted his free throw to give the Mount the lead for good. The Mount hung on down the stretch and secured a 66-61 victory in front of their home crowd.
Robinson said afterwards, “It was great win. We were on a three game losing streak and we came out today wanting it. We were hungry for this win.”
Following their much needed win our Sacred Heart, the Mount faced the Red Flash of St. Francis University (PA). In the early going, both teams could not get a shot to go. St. Francis managed only one field goal prior to the 16:00 mark while the Mount did not score during the opening five minutes.
With 14:50 to play in the first half, Robinson notched the first points for the Mount through contested jumper from the right elbow. Moments later, Ashe hit his first shot of the game from the top of the key to tie the game at six. Robinson continued his impressive play from two days earlier by leading the Mount with 11 points at the break. As the second half began, the Mount had a slim five point lead at 34-29, but the Red Flash would soon take over the game.
The mid-range jumper proved to be the difference maker for St. Francis after a dismal first half from the field. After shooting just 26% in the opening half, the Red Flash made eight buckets inside the three point arc to take a five point lead. With 7:30 to play in the second half, Wray and red shirt sophomore Charles Glover propelled the Mount’s offense.
Glover made a highly contested three from the left-hand corner to cut St. Francis’ lead to two with just over six minutes to go. Wray easily scored below the rim following a beautiful feed from Robinson to tie the game at the 5:36 mark. After a pair of successful free throws from Robinson, Wray scored yet again in the paint to give the Mount a four point lead at 60-56.
As the final three minutes came off the clock, St. Francis failed to score from the field. A series of Mount free throws extended their lead to 65-61 with under a minute to play. A last second three pointer from St. Francis was off the mark, and the Mount prevailed with a 66-61 win to close out this mini home-stand.
Coach Christian noted after the game, “We showed great poise against two first place opponents and this is a great win for us.” He went on to say, “We do need to be more aggressive and get more guys to the line. This allows us to mix in different schemes. When we score, we can set up our press. This way, we play defense for only 21 instead of the 35 seconds on the shot clock.”
The Mountaineers return to Knott Arena next Thursday to take on the Knights of Farleigh Dickinson. Tip-off is set for 7 PM.