EMMITSBURG — Injury-free and with the worst of the COVID-19 wave likely in the rear-view mirror, Mount St. Mary’s is well positioned to provide the best possible defense of its Northeastern Conference championship in men’s basketball.
The Mountaineers played perhaps their best half of coach Dan Engelstad’s four-year tenure on Friday night en route to a 98-59 wire-to-wire rout of foe NEC Sacred Heart at Knott Arena.
They shot from nearly 60% from the field and behind the 3-point line, turned the ball over just three times and built up a 29-point lead in the first half, making the second half fun and without pressure. exhibition of know-how.
The last line of stats for the Mount (7-10, 3-4 NEC) showed 58% total shooting, 50% (11 for 22) 3-point shooting, less than 10 turnovers (nine) and a huge rebound. advantage (48-25).
“It’s a winning recipe,” Engelstad said. “If we bounce the basketball, we don’t return the ball and we have the defense as it starts to form, more often than not, I think we’re going to like the result.”
The Mountaineers have won three of their last four games and are back at full strength after a severe COVID surge and an assortment of injuries kept key players out.
The COVID wave was so bad that the team had only four scholarship players available at one point and had to forfeit its first two conference games of the season, despite having a 100% vaccination rate.
Friday’s game against Sacred Heart was the Mount’s first home game in a month, as the two forfeited games were scheduled for Knott Arena to kick off the conference schedule at the very end of last year.
The Mount have since played four straight NEC games on the road in the past two weeks, going 2-2 in that span, including a 57-50 win over third-placed Merrimack on Monday night.
“I learned something about our team on these last two road trips,” Engelstad said. “We were over two weeks [COVID] break where we had two different teams. We had a COVID team and we had a non-COVID team. Somehow we managed to break up on the road after not playing together for a while.
“Then we go, and we don’t play our best basketball in Bryant [in a 73-66 loss on Jan. 15], and we’re able to turn it around and beat a good Merrimack team down the road. It showed me that we have courage. So, I’m starting to see something in this team in terms of their tenacity and their heart. These are the teams that can run and win a lot of basketball games.
Every player entered the match against Sacred Heart (7-11, 3-4 NEC) except for one level player, and 11 of the 12 who played made their way into the scoring column. scores.
Senior forward Mezie Offurum, a Germantown native, led the way with a career-high 22 points.
Sophomore Josh Reaves delivered 15 off the bench, and senior forwards Malik Jefferson and Nana Opoku and junior guard Josh Benjamin all finished with 13.
“It looked like we were really having fun,” Offurum said. “I know it’s easy when we reverse all the shots. Even in the second half, when they were hitting things, it was just a fun environment. It was good to find our students, our classmates and all. I just enjoyed the camaraderie and the atmosphere.
Mount St. Mary’s will host Central Connecticut (4-15, 2-5 NEC) at 2 p.m. Sunday before heading to face Fairleigh Dickinson (2-5 NEC) on Thursday.
After Sacred Heart’s win, Engelstad said: “That’s what we envisioned with this group because we have a lot of offensive weapons. We have a lot of talent. We have fast guys who can go out in transition. It was nice to see the guys coming together and feeding off the energy of Knott Arena… We were able to come out tonight and impose our will from the start, which was great to see.
Mount St. Mary’s 60, Sacred Heart 51
The Mountaineers opened the game on a 12-0 streak. They used the momentum to claim a wire-to-wire triumph, moving to 6-8 (4-3 NEC) for the season.
Graduate student Tess Borgosz doubled her career high with 16 points. Kendall Bresee (Urbana) had a game-high 17 points, and Jessica Tomasetti matched her career-best rebound with six.
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