BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- Freshman guard Jake McGee scored a career-high 23 points in his first career start, and freshman forward Oneil Holder added 22 points as the Moravian College men's basketball team opened the 2015-16 Landmark Conference season with an 83-74 win over Goucher College in Johnston Hall Wednesday evening.
The Greyhounds even their record at 3-3 on the season as the Blue and Grey have won three of their last four contests under first-year head coach Justin Potts. Moravian led the Gophers early on Wednesday before falling behind in the first half. The Hounds outscored Goucher 49-41 in the second half for the victory.
"I think it was a good start for us obviously and some of our growing pains as a young team is learning how to play with a lead at times and learning to continue to play our style," commented Potts. "We also need to learn how to be aggressive with discipline, and during that stretch when they came back, we weren't aggressive and we weren't disciplined at either end of the floor. I think for a young team, we found a way to grow up a little bit tonight. We did a good job in the second half of finding a way to make some shots when we needed to and then get back into our pressure and generate the pace we wanted to. Any time you can get a conference win, it doesn't matter how it happens, and you just want to get one."
McGee, starting for injured forward junior Brandon McGuire who sat out the game, was 8-for-13 from the floor including 4-for-6 behind the three-point line, and McGee also grabbed a career-best nine rebounds to go with a pair of steals. Holder also shot well from the floor, making 7-of-10 field goal attempts and 7-of-8 free throws, and he added eight rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.
"Jake McGee had a heck of a game," noted Potts. "There a guy who was playing 15-16 minutes a game, stepped up to play 33 minutes tonight and score 23 points. He really stepped up in Brandon's absence. Oneil has had a great start, and so has Jake. Jake plays as hard as anyone we have. He runs around and competes. Those two guys also did a good job competing on the glass, and Oneil has been every efficient offensively. I think he is a mismatch for guys on the perimeter and he can post guys inside too."
Freshman guard Jimmy Murray tossed in 13 points for the Hounds to go with three rebounds and two assists while junior guard Isaiah Jennings and sophomore guard Khalil Rhett each scored seven points with Jennings adding five assists and three steals and Rhett grabbing two boards. Junior guard Sean Hanna had five points, four rebounds and two assists while freshman guard Will Brazukas and sophomore guard Matt Cardonne each had three assists. Senior forward Bobby Zimmermann grabbed a career-high four rebounds in the win for Moravian.
"I thought Isaiah did a good job at the point as well as scoring a little bit tonight, and what probably goes unnoticed in the box score was Sean Hanna's play this evening. He is giving us huge minutes and all-out effort," stated Potts. "It was definitely a team win with some guys off the bench that had to play more minutes than they have, and that's a good sign."
Holder opened the scoring with a three-pointer, and when he scored on a dunk off of a steam by Jennings, The Greyhounds had a 15-4 lead just six minutes into action. The lead reached 17-4 on a Murray jumper a minute and a half later but a 21-5 run by the Gophers put the Gophers up 25-21 with 4:52 left in the opening half. The Blue and Grey answered back and pulled back in front 32-30 on a three-point play from McGee with 47 seconds before the intermission. Moravian would head to the locker room with a 34-33 advantage.
Hanna opened the second half with a three-pointer, and when he converted another steal by Jennings into a fast break lay-up, Moravian lead 43-35 just three minutes into the second half. Once again, the Gophers crawled back into the game and took a pair of one-point leads, the second at 51-50 with 13:14 to play. The Greyhounds moved back in front for good 23 seconds later on a driving lay-up by Rhett. Moravian pushed the lead back to 10 points, 74-64, on a lay-up by McGee with 3:30 on the clock, and the Hounds went 8-for-8 at the foul line in the final 48 seconds to seal the victory, the first conference opening win for the Blue and Grey in four years.
For the sixth straight game this season, Moravian's up-tempo, pressing style of play installed by Potts had the squad force more turnovers (20) and the Hounds committed (15), and the Greyhounds had just two turnovers in the final 20 minutes of action while forcing 10.
"I think we're growing, and I try to keep telling the guys to stay with the process," Potts said. "The last four games we're 3-1 and we've played well, even in the loss at DeSales I thought we played good. The biggest thing with the process is to continue to push the envelope. It feels great to be 3-3, and it feels great to get a conference win, and as any coach, I'm just trying to get the next one. I think as a team development, I think we're a little bit ahead of where I thought we would be at this point. We're growing a little quicker which is good, but we need to continue to do that throughout the course of the season.
The Greyhounds will be back in action on Saturday, December 5 when they host No. 22 The Catholic University of America in a Landmark Conference contest tipping off at 2:00 p.m. in Johnston Hall.